Besides its high biodiversity, the DR Congo forest is home to the Bonobo, who, with the Chimpanzee is our closest primate relative. Native to the region south of the Congo river, the estimated population of this great ape is uncertain, ranging from 10.000 to 40.000 individuals. The only certainty is the massive decline of this population due to its slaughter for bushmeat and deforestation.
The DR Congo has experienced the hardships of continuing civil wars, leaving behind devastation, hopelessness, collapsed infrastructure, and degraded agriculture. People living in remote areas of this country now depend mostly on natural resources for their survival. So hunting for bushmeat in their forests plays an important role in their livelihoods. Almost every forest animal is hunted, directly consumed or smoked and sold. As a result, wildlife is massively overexploited and hardly any animals are seen or heard along the rivers. For the bonobos, hunted like any other source of meat, the situation is especially dramatic. Like all great apes, they have long reproduction cycles---a female bonobo delivers a baby only once every five to seven years. While we cannot know how many of these precious primates are still alive in the forests, they are frequently found dead as smoked meat for sale in the local markets or smuggled to the cities, as babies to be adopted as pets.
In order to minimize hunting of the bonobo population, survival alternatives must be found for the local people. In Awely’s Green Cap project in the region of Basankusu and the Lofale forest area, our team is working together with hunters and bushmeat sellers to thoroughly analyse the local bushmeat situation and to develop strategies to create alternative income sources to stop the hunting, trading and eating of bonobos. Further, they are creating projects to support sustainable development, combined with providing extensive education for the conservation of forests and their wildlife.