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Bonobo (Pan paniscus)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925462

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 0925462) - Bonobo - Awarded $15,000 on April 01, 2010

The mission of the Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba Project (TL2 project) is to protect bonobo, a great ape unique to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to conserve forests in the southeastern part of the bonobo's range. The project's objectives, at the outset, were to determine the southeastern extent of the bonobo range(done), discover the biodiversity of these forests (underway), understand and control threats to bonobo and other large mammals in this area(ongoing) and create a protected area working with local villages, local government and national government(ongoing). The TL2 project was initiated in 2006. Field work got underway in early 2007. Our activities are concentrated in the geographical area between the three rivers of the Tshuapa,the Lomami and the Lualaba with most work centered in the forested basin of the Lomami, a river that flows south to north through the center of DRCongo. The target species is the bonobo, found only on the left bank of the Congo River where its distribution is very uneven as a result of forests of unequal habitat quality, forests being cleared for agriculture, and forests being hunted for bushmeat. TL2 forests are remote with low human presence. We found that they have important bonobo populations, but bushmeat hunting, the main threat, is widespread. One of the last of DRCongo’s dwindling forest elephant populations is also found in TL2 along with a diversity of large mammals that includes DRCongo’s endemic okapi and a new species of monkey. The latter, discovered last year during our initial surveys, goes by the common name of Lesula. Genetic and morphological studies are now being completed. It has a limited range along the west bank of the Lomami River spanning the three provinces of interest, Orientale, Maniema and Kasai Oriental. The recent decade of armed conflict in DRCongo resulted in a loss of control on illegal hunting, a large population of unemployed youth and an abundance of locally made shotguns (12 caliber). Military grade weapons, particularly AK 47s, are also dispersed in the countryside. Land tenure is vague; hunting rights are often traded with no oversight. These are the challenges that face bonobo conservation and that can only be addressed with a strong local lobby and the assistance of influential traditional chiefs as well as the elected local and national governments. Habitats in the TL2 area include swamp forest, upland forest, riverine forest and extensive edaphic savannas with a unique flora and fauna. Bonobo are most abundant in the upland and riverine forests.

Project 0925462 location - Congo, Democratic Republic of (Congo-Kinshasa), Africa