Bonobos have only been recognized as a species for around a century, but in that time they have gained a reputation for being one of the most easy-going, tolerant species of the wild animal world. Bonobos are able create societies that are less aggressive than those of other great apes because they have diverse diets and live in a resource-rich environment. However, this same environment, in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, also puts bonobos in danger’s way.
The DRC is a rich landscape filled with deep culture and inspiring beauty. However, the country is plagued with poverty and civil war. This instability makes protecting the DRC’s abundant wildlife difficult. The largest threats to bonobos come from poaching for bushmeat, which is fueled by guns brought into the country for war, and from forest loss and degradation. Bushmeat has always part of a traditional diet in the DRC, but now commercial operations made up of organized, well-armed groups are hunting more bonobos than is sustainable for the population. At the same time, the forests are changing due to slash-and-burn agriculture, mining, commercial logging and road building. Bonobos are officially considered endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species.
Dr. Gay Reinartz of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative spends much of her time working in a remote research station in the DRC’s rainforest. The station is located in Salonga National Park, a park three times the size of Yellowstone that is the DRC’s only national park currently designated for protection of the bonobo. Gay works both with bonobos, researching their behavior, and with local people.
Gay and BCBI work with people to protect bonobos from two angles. They aid park officials by providing training and supplies and equipment such as GPS units. They also collaborate with local people to improve farming methods and create new educational opportunities. They have established a farming cooperative with a local NGO to help villagers grow their own food and sell the leftovers as well as set up primary schools.
We look forward to welcoming Dr. Gay Edwards Reinartz as a guest speaker at the 2014 Wildlife Conservation Expo.
To support bonobo conservation and Gay’s work, donate to BCBI by selecting Bonobo on the dropdown menu.
Learn more about Gay’s work by visiting http://www.bonoboconservation.com/bonobos/