A tiny island in Africa’s Gulf of Guinea may become a top priority for global primate conservation efforts. Once connected to the African mainland, Bioko Island is a virtual laboratory for evolution as species there have evolved separately for thousands of years.
Bioko Island is part of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, whose capital, Malabo, is located on Bioko. A former Spanish colony and the only Spanish-speaking nation in mainland Africa, Equatorial Guinea is at an important crossroad for its future.
Bushmeat, particularly meat from primates, is a delicacy for those with the money to afford it. Newfound oil off the coast is bringing wealth to certain parts of the nation, increasing the demand for bushmeat.
In response, Equatorial Guinea’s president instituted a ban on hunting and consuming meat from primates. The ban has met with mixed results as poaching and hunting have increased. Part of the concern about the bushmeat trade on Bioko is the fact that there is no clear consensus on how many primates populate the island.
IN PHOTOS: Explore the bushmeat market of Bioko.
As part of an effort to catalogue the current status of primates on Bioko Island, a diverse team of renowned scientists and photographers spent 12 days in the wilds of Bioko on a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) organized by the International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic and Conservation International.
The purpose of a RAVE is to create a stirring dossier of life with powerful images and film that can be used to change behaviors and lead to new conservation results from local governments and leaders.
Showcasing the unique and threatened plants and animals in an area under threat is a powerful motivation tool. Bioko Island is considered a top priority for primate conservation and the team was there to document life in the forests of Bioko.
The RAVE process is a remarkable example of the teamwork necessary to get the world’s attention fixed on a place it might not normally think about.
Bioko Island is a natural treasure and needs to be protected so scientists can understand how our planet has evolved. What’s more, it will allow Equatorial Guineans to live in balance with their natural surroundings.
READ MORE: ILCP Director Cristina Mittermeier provides a first-person account of a Bioko bushmeat market.