Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest

by Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Our friend, Alden
Our friend, Alden

Every day, BCI trackers and eco-guards are out in the Congo rainforest, tirelessly defending bonobos and their vital habitat. Because of the remote location of the bonobo range, it can be challenging for these rainforest guardians to communicate with BCI headquarters in Kinshasa and Washington, DC. Thanks to our generous supporters, the BCI team has just installed satellite internet (VSAT) in the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve! We are so excited to bring even more stories and photos from the field to bonobo fans across the world.

BCI President Sally Jewell Coxe is currently in the field, accompanied by primatologist Dr. Deborah Moore. In cooperation with BCI, Max Planck Institute, and local partner Vie Sauvage, Dr. Moore is conducting a study of two habituated bonobo groups in the reserve, gaining invaluable data and insights that will inform further research. Collaborating with local trackers who have been monitoring the bonobos for several years, Deb is paving the way for future scientific work by initiating a long-term research program at Kokolopori. Meanwhile, Sally has been hard at work advancing wildlife protection programs in the reserve and—her favorite activity—observing bonobos. She has sent some incredible pictures via the new VSAT.

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, it seems only fitting to share a few stories about mothers in the Kokolopori reserve. We are delighted to announce that one of the bonobos has given birth to a healthy little baby! Bonobos only reproduce about once every five years, a low birth rate that contributes to their endangered status, so every bonobo baby is a cause for celebration. Bonobos aren’t the only babies in Kokolopori—there are some very special children in the villages, too! A local family honored BCI board member Alden Almquist by naming their son after him. Alden’s ndoyi (namesake) is a bright and cheerful boy, and he greatly enjoyed having his picture taken. He will be joined by a new BCI ndoyi—baby Sally, born just last month. BCI wishes a happy Mother’s Day to all Congo rainforest mothers, human and bonobo alike!

Please help BCI help all these families by contributing today. To keep the VSAT and computer center up and running, BCI needs funds to build a reliable solar energy system. Greater communication between trackers and the global community means greater protection for bonobos and the Congo rainforest. Thank you so much for your kind support!

Installing VSAT Internet
Installing VSAT Internet
Female bonobo, resting just before giving birth
Female bonobo, resting just before giving birth
Our dedicated trackers
Our dedicated trackers
Peace Forest community leaders meeting in Kinshasa
Peace Forest community leaders meeting in Kinshasa

Thank you for being one of our amazing GlobalGiving supporters! Today, February 12, is the first GlobalGiving Bonus Day of 2014. GlobalGiving has set aside $75,000 to boost your donations. Your gift today will be matched up to $1000 per donor at 30%. For bonobos and the communities that live alongside them in the Congo, this is an incredible opportunity.

Our Bonobo Peace Forest project has inspired local communities to organize. They’ve matched our passion and commitment as they strive to preserve the world’s last bonobos, replicating our model of community-based conservation. Last month, these community leaders met with BCI and its advisors in Kinshasa to plan for existing and new reserves. Just as maintaining our Peace Forest project sends ripples through the Congo basin, your donation makes waves throughout rainforest communities.

We know you want your gift to go far, and that’s why we dedicate it to our trackers, providing them with basic equipment and salaries to support their families. Our impact on bonobo preservation grew when our local partners began to match us. Please take advantage of GlobalGiving’s matching offer today to grow your impact!

If you’ve already given today, you have our deepest gratitude. If not, you still have a chance to allocate GlobalGiving’s funding for our project by making a matched donation. As they say in the Congo—merci mingi! Thank you very much!

Grow with us!
Grow with us!
Bonobo tracker
Bonobo tracker

We’ve long known that bonobos are key to understanding ourselves, but a new study affirms they’re also a keystone species for the Congo Basin. By transporting seeds around the forest and improving their viability, bonobos foster diversity that’s crucial to the health of the ecosystem. That’s not hyperbole: According to the study’s authors, many plant species rely primarily on bonobos for reproduction. The bonobo can be considered “a gardener of the Congo forests,” they suggest.

David Beaune and his research team tracked a bonobo community for more than a year, observing what they ate, how far they spread seeds, and whether those seeds sprouted. They learned that ingestion or manipulation by bonobos conferred a high germination rate. Because of the bonobos’ size, they can ingest larger seeds than other animals in the same range. The authors conclude that “the bonobo may disproportionately affect the regeneration process of these plants….the extirpation of this primate from the ecosystem is likely to lead to an irreplaceable loss of current ecosystem services.” In other words, the health of the forest, and of the species that call it home, really do depend on the continued existence of bonobos. As the “second lung” of our planet, the Congo rainforest sequesters carbon and produces vast quantities of the oxygen we depend on – reinforcing how important bonobos are to our well-being.

The bonobo relationship with the forest parallels the relationship our eco-guards have with bonobos. As the bonobo populations revive and spread seeds through the Congo Basin, improving conditions for diverse growth, so do our trackers spread through the forest, creating a haven in which the bonobos can live and reproduce. They are the guardians of the bonobos, of the species that depend on the forest, and of the forest itself.

Just as seeds need the right conditions to germinate, our trackers need the right resources to act. They need machetes to cut trails, radios to communicate, and salaries to provide food and shelter for their families.  Recurring donations provide those things and promise future sustenance. A monthly commitment of even a small amount allows BCI to plan for the future, knowing that we can depend on monthly income to pay our trackers.

Gardeners and guardians both appreciate your support. Thank you for helping them to nourish one of the greatest gardens on Earth!

Bonobos eating bolingo fruit
Bonobos eating bolingo fruit


Boma L
Boma L'Heure, protected by our teams at Kokolopori

Make this bonobo’s smile 30% bigger!

Thank you so much for being one of our faithful GlobalGiving supporters. Today, October 9, is GlobalGiving's last Bonus Day of 2013. We know you want your contributions to make the largest impact possible. If you give today, GlobalGiving will match donations (up to $1000 per donor) at 30%. This exciting one-day-only event runs until 11:59 PM EDT, or until funds run out. GlobalGiving only has $25,000 to give to all projects in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East—please donate early to ensure that some of those funds go toward protecting bonobos!

By supporting our project, "Save Endangered Bonobos in the Congo Rainforest", you will help provide equipment, training, salaries, and supplies for our hardworking trackers and eco-guards. Every day, these local teams are in the forest monitoring bonobo groups, collecting vital data, and protecting bonobos from poachers’ snares. They are truly the front line defenders of bonobos and their rainforest home.

Your support makes all the difference in our work. If you have already given to our cause today, we greatly appreciate your generosity. If you haven't, there's still time! Please take advantage of today's special opportunity to make your donation count even more. As they say in the Congo—merci mingi! Thank you very much!

Survey training
Survey training

Bonobo conservation efforts have often been hampered by lack of information. To better understand bonobos and their habitat, BCI and partners conducted an extensive survey of the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, thanks to support from the USFW Great Ape Conservation Fund. The results are enlightening, and they point the way to more effective and efficient protection strategies.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute provided training in standard scientific methodologies to local survey teams.  The teams then conducted a thorough census of the Kokolopori Reserve using these techniques. Smaller scale surveys have taken place previously, and this most recent survey—the first to cover the entire reserve—has yielded a wealth of new information. Of all of the discoveries, perhaps the most exciting is the evidence of a thriving bonobo presence in the reserve. Previous estimates had put the population at around 1000 bonobos, and this new research raises that estimate to 1800, making the Kokolopori Reserve home to one of the largest bonobo populations discovered to date. In addition to bonobo sightings, monitoring teams reported sightings of the rare Salongo monkey (Cercopithecus dryas), a critically endangered species never studied outside of Kokolopori.

As much as the survey highlighted the species that live in Kokolopori, it also revealed the threats to their survival. Direct encounters with hunters took place on the periphery of the reserve to the south and east. River access points were hotbeds of poacher activity, as bushmeat is most readily transported on the water. These findings, though troubling, point the way to future conservation strategies. More eco-guards are needed in these areas to ensure the continued wellbeing of all of the animals living within this vital region of rainforest.

BCI, local partner Vie Sauvage, and the newly trained field teams continue to monitor the reserve and gain invaluable information about the Kokolopori bonobos, other key species, and overall biodiversity. The scientific training provided by the Max Planck Institute will continue to bolster the local Congolese communities' ability to manage and protect the forests that they share with bonobos. 

As always, none of our work would be possible without your support. Thank you for all that you do, and please remember to spread the word!

In the field
In the field
The Critically Endangered Salongo monkey
The Critically Endangered Salongo monkey
A Kokolopori bonobo
A Kokolopori bonobo

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Organization Information

Bonobo Conservation Initiative

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sally Coxe
Washington, DC United States
2016 Year End Campaign
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