Education, reintroduction and conservation of the Bonobo
‘Les Amis des Bonobos en Europe’ (ABE – Friends of Bonobos in Europe) had planned to support the ‘Friends of Bonobos in Congo’ (ABC) association in an integrated conservation program at Ekolo Ya Bonobo, a reserve situated in the primary forest of the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Educational activities were planned, as well as support for alternative community development and anti-poaching patrols aimed at ensuring the safety of bonobos released into the wild.
In August 2011, a serious accident occurred during the reintroduction program, with three trackers severely bitten by bonobos. ABC subsequently slowed down its operations and it was not until 2013, once the trackers had recovered and rejoined the team, that activities resumed in earnest, which meant that the objectives set could not be achieved.
Despite this, environmental education initiatives have reached 7 230 passing visitors along the Lopori River. On average, around 100 canoes have stopped very month to watch the released bonobos and be given explanations by the project’s eco-guards. Furthermore, around 20 educational presentations have been given in the villages and schools near the reserve, reaching over 750 people. In 2013, a series of radio programs was also successfully launched on two local stations.
On the community development side, around 20 associations, organized around the village’s main occupation types, were given technical training on growing rice, groundnuts, cowpea, maize and cassava as well as receiving improved seeds and fishing equipment.
Finally, since July 2013, ABC’s eco-guards have carried out an average of 16 anti-poaching patrols per month in the reserve. Evidence of human activity varies considerably during the year: two-thirds of human traces are linked to eel fishing, a seasonal occupation during the flood season. Evidence of hunting, while less extensive, remains significant, and this problem needs to be addressed.
At the beginning of 2014, ABC obtained funding to fit some of the released bonobos with GPS/GSM collars. This development will lead to more effective monitoring without risk to the trackers.