In the world’s second largest rainforest, a threatened primate has a refuge. Nestled in the Congo River basin, the 4,000-square-kilometer Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve shelters black-furred bands of bonobos, matriarchal great apes with a genome akin to humans.
Their numbers decimated by hunting and logging, bonobos serve a key ecological role, dispersing seeds of the rainforest fruits that comprise much of their diet. And these peaceable apes share the Kokolopori Reserve with a rich array of fauna, notably 11 other primates, such as the indigenous Salongo monkey.
Since 2001, the Global Conservation Fund has partnered with the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) to save this important habitat and make it a protected area. GCF underwrites capacity building for area residents, including wildlife surveys, land management, sustainable micro-businesses, stakeholder gatherings and public education.
With GCF backing, BCI has also established a health clinic for local residents and furnished disease-resident cassava cuttings that minimize impact on the neighboring rainforest.
Kokolopori provides a fresh paradigm for conservation: the community-based reserve. In fact, an association of 30-odd villages, along with local NGO Vie Sauvage, is managing the area and keeping its primates safe from hunters. BCI leaders envision the reserve as just one piece of a larger Bonobo Peace Forest, with tracts of rainforest linked by wildlife corridors.