Bonobo Conservation

Notes From the Field, October - December 2009

For more than 13 years, the Zoological Society’s Dr. Gay E. Reinartz has worked in Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo to help save the bonobo—a rare, endangered great ape. As head of the Society’s Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI), Dr. Reinartz spends almost six months each year in Africa.

For a scenic photo journey, see below (Back from the Congo: Photo Journey).

Gay with Conservation team in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Dr. Gay E. Reinartz (back row, far left) and the Zoological Society’s conservation team in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo provided by Dr. Reinartz.

Bonobos, native only to the Democratic Republic of Congo, face threats such as poaching, rain-forest destruction and years of civil war. From a research station called Etate in the Congo’s Salonga National Park, Dr. Reinartz and the Zoological Society:

A view of Etate

A view of Etate, the Zoological Society’s research station in the Congo. Photo provided by Dr. Reinartz.

  • Survey forest in search of bonobo populations and study the ecological factors that influence bonobo distribution.
  • Develop anti-poaching programs in the Salonga to protect apes, forest elephants and other endangered animals from their worst threat – poaching.  BCBI trains, equips and supports park guards who patrol bonobo-rich areas and enforce laws that prohibit hunting of endangered species.
  • Provide jobs, literacy education, school equipment, training, and support for agricultural cooperatives to communities living near the park so that local people have a vested interest in protecting the bonobo. These activities also reduce the people’s reliance on illegal hunting for bush meat.
  • Model small-scale conservation methods that can be used throughout Congo.

As part of this latest trip to the field, Dr. Reinartz will share occasional updates on our Web site. Below are excerpts from e-mails shared by the Zoological Society’s field-research team.

October - December 2009 Field Updates

More Information

For more on Dr. Reinartz, her field work and the Zoological Society’s strides to save bonobos, please see these resources:

More on Bonobos:

Bonobo, Murph

The Milwaukee County Zoo has 16 bonobos (one of the largest groups in a zoo environment). Here’s what Dr. Reinartz said about bonobos in a 2009 WUWM interview (see above for link):

“The bonobo is special to us because it is closely related to us, along with its sister species, the chimpanzee. Bonobos are incredibly intelligent. They’re funny, they have a tremendous sense of humor, and they are very childlike in their play and their manner. They have a unique social system: They tend to be female-bonded as opposed to showing dramatic male hierarchical systems. So the bonobo has been targeted by scientists as giving us an understanding of human evolution, giving us certain insights into how we might have evolved and our social systems.”

For more on these great apes, click here.