Congolese Ownership of Bonobo Conservation

DRC has some of the largest remaining untouched tracts of tropical rainforest that can either be home to bonobos or their endangered cousins, chimpanzees and gorillas. No other African country boasts such an immense wealth of apes and ape habitat. Clearly, DRC's forests must remain at the forefront of the international community's conservation agenda. However, the will to conserve these unique resources must ultimately come from the Congolese themselves. In the end, only the Congolese can decide to conserve the bonobos and our other ape cousins living in Congo.

Before the existence of the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary, there was no place in the DRC where a child or the average Congolese citizen could go and visit bonobos or discover the value of conserving their country's wild heritage. Today, the bonobos of Lola ya Bonobo act as ambassadors between their world and ours by giving thousands of ordinary Congolese the chance to come face to face with what they stand to lose - in 2005, that totaled over 14,000 people (see Fig. 15.3 for number of visitors to the sanctuary). The sanctuary's slogan is "conservation through education," and we have implemented a number of programs so that the sanctuary's bonobos have the chance to capture the hearts of every Congolese who encounters them.

Although the sanctuary is visited by people of all ages, our target audience is the children who visit. Many children visit the sanctuary with their families, but for those who would not otherwise have the opportunity, the sanctuary has reached out through its association of thirty-nine "Kindness Clubs" (each at a different school in Kinshasa, see Table 5.2), and by hosting visits by school groups. The Kindness Clubs exist to promote kindness to animals by motivating members to take practical in o o

8000

6000

4000

children adults officials

Fig. 15.3 Illustrates the number and type of visitors that came to see the bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in 2005. All children were Congolese students (this does not include children under 12 who visit with parents, as we never charge admittance for this age group and have no record for this group) and the majority of government officials were Congolese as well (including the Vice-President of DRC in charge of reconstruction and development). We most often host official visits for members of Ministry of the Environment, their diplomatic guests, and delegations from foreign embassies. We also organize a trip once a month for Congolese civil servants to visit either from ICCN, the Ministry of Environment, the Directorate of Resources, the Office of the Secretary General, and the CITES DRC office. In all cases, Lola ya Bonobo offers to pay for transportation, food and drink. In 2005 we also hosted dignitaries from all great ape range countries who attended the GRASP Inter-governmental meeting in September 2005.

Table 15.2 The name and location of the schools where Lola ya Bonobo runs a Kindness club in which children learn about conservation and welfare. Kinshasa has 24 communes, with the 26 kindness clubs being located in 18 different schools located in 7 communes of the east, west, north, south and centre of Kinshasa city

Table 15.2 The name and location of the schools where Lola ya Bonobo runs a Kindness club in which children learn about conservation and welfare. Kinshasa has 24 communes, with the 26 kindness clubs being located in 18 different schools located in 7 communes of the east, west, north, south and centre of Kinshasa city

Schools

Communes

1

EDAP/UPN (Secondary school)

Ngaliema (west)

2

Lycée BOSANGANI (Secondary school)

Gombe (north)

3

C.S. Mgr MOKE (Primary school)

Kalamu (centre)

4

E.P. Lycée BOSANGANI (Primary school)

Gombe (north)

5

Institut BOBOKOLI (Secondary school)

Ngaliema (west)

6

Institut BOBOKOLI (Secondary school)

Ngaliema (west)

7

Institut. du Mont- AMBA UNIKIN

Lemba (south)

(Secondary school)

8

E.P. Lycée TOBONGISA (Primary school)

Ngaliema (west)

9

Institut du Mont- AMBA UNIKIN (Primary school)

Lemba (south)

10

E.P. St Cyprien (Primary school)

Ngaliema (west)

11

E.P. Martyrs de l'Ouganda (Primary school)

Ngaliema (west)

12

Lycée St Joseph (Secondary school)

Kimbanseke (east)

13

Lycée St Joseph (Secondary school)

Kimbanseke (east)

14

E.P. St Cyprien (Secondary school)

Ngaliema (west)

15

UNIKIN (University)

Lemba (south)

16

E.P. Lycée BOSANGANI (Primary school)

Gombe (north)

17

Institut des Beaux Arts (Secondary school)

Gombe (north)

18

Collège St Frederic (Secondary school)

Kimbanseke (east)

19

Collège St Frederic (Secondary school)

Kimbanseke (east)

20

Collège St Frederic (Secondary school)

Kimbanseke (east)

21

Lycée de Kimwenza (Secondary school)

Mont- Ngafula (south)

22

Collège Pierre Bouvet (Primary school)

Selembao (south-west)

23

Collège Pierre Bouvet (Secondary school)

Selembao (south-west)

24

Lycée de Kimwenza (Secondary school)

Mont- Ngafula (south)

25

C.E. Les gazelles (Primary school)

Kalamu (centre)

26

C.E. Les gazelles (Secondary school)

Kalamu (centre)

actions to improve animal welfare and conservation. We do this through regular visits to schools by our education staff and by sponsoring trips to the sanctuary. Funding for our school program also allows large groups of school children from the poorest areas of Kinshasa to visit the sanctuary by providing them with transportation and lunch during the day (~ 50% of school groups that visit are from poorer districts that require financial aid to pay for their visit).

Arriving at the sanctuary, the children are greeted by one of our education staff members. The children are brought to our education center where they learn the basics of bonobo life, the risks to bonobos associated with the bushmeat trade, and the role they can play in protecting bonobos and Congo's wildlife. To help children understand how similar bonobos can be to them, we show them a short video in which the famous bonobo Kanzi works together with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh in solving all sorts of complicated problems; in addition, we inform them about the illegal bushmeat trade. Impressed by Kanzi, the children then leave on a guided tour around the sanctuary's

2.5 km trail system so that they encounter the bonobos playing in the ponds or chasing each other through the canopy of the trees, just as they would in the wild. Children, as well as adults, commonly make remarks about how they never realized humans and bonobos could be so similar.

Over the years, we have tried to improve our ability to convey our messages regarding the conservation of bonobos and their habitat by conducting pre- and post-visit surveys (see Appendix I for example). With our surveys we have learned that children retain our conservation messages best if they are presented with them in class a few days before they visit the sanctuary (it seems with the excitement of being at the sanctuary itself, it is more difficult for children to retain the messages; see Figs. 15.4 and 15.5 for the results of pre- and post-visit surveys that suggest our programs have been successful at communicating these messages). Therefore, an education officer from the sanctuary visits each school group taking a portable LCD projector and laptop so that he can make a presentation in preparation for the children's sanctuary visit shortly after. Between the pre-visit seminar and the experience of visiting the sanctuary's bonobos, the children of Kinshasa are learning the value of conserving their country's unique, 100% Congolese ape. Overall, we believe Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary also has value for wild bonobos by giving

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□ previously visit pre-visit post-visit

Fig. 15.4 The results of pre- and post-visit survey questions for 200 children who visited the sanctuary for the first time and 200 children who have visited the sanctuary previously. The children were posed the question of whether they thought bonobos were a) frightening, b) amusing, c) dangerous, or d) beautiful. The figure represents the percentage of children responding that the bonobos were amusing. After their first visit, children changed significantly from choosing to describe bonobos as amusing at below chance levels to significantly describing them as amusing at above chance levels - this preference then persisted when they returned on a second visit (Chi-square ***p<0.001).

□ previously visit pre-visit post-visit

Fig. 15.4 The results of pre- and post-visit survey questions for 200 children who visited the sanctuary for the first time and 200 children who have visited the sanctuary previously. The children were posed the question of whether they thought bonobos were a) frightening, b) amusing, c) dangerous, or d) beautiful. The figure represents the percentage of children responding that the bonobos were amusing. After their first visit, children changed significantly from choosing to describe bonobos as amusing at below chance levels to significantly describing them as amusing at above chance levels - this preference then persisted when they returned on a second visit (Chi-square ***p<0.001).

Fig. 15.5 Pre- and post-visit survey results for a) 200 children who visited the sanctuary for the first time and b) 200 children who had visited the sanctuary previously. The children were asked to respond true or false to questions: 1) bonobos do not make good pets, 2) bonobos are not an endangered species, 3) hunting and snares are dangerous for bonobos, 4) planting trees is something you can do to help bonobos, and 5) bushmeat trade threatens bonobos with extinction. Children responses improved significantly after they visited the sanctuary. Interestingly, before visiting the sanctuary, children responded significantly above chance that bonobos made good pets, while after their visit they responded that bonobos did not make good pets (Chi-square ***p<0.001 **p<0.01 *p<0.05).

question 1 question 2 question 3 question 4 question 5

Congolese citizens, and in particular children, the opportunity to meet our bonobo ambassadors who have the best chance to instill the will for conservation in the Congolese.

In addition to the education that takes place at the sanctuary, even the actual confiscation process of live bonobo orphans serves as an invaluable education opportunity for the civil servants responsible for the enforcement of environmental laws. For example, recent confiscations in Mbandaka, Basankusu, and Lisala provided an opportunity for the education of law enforcement officials (and other people) closer to the source of the bushmeat trade. This type of education will prove to be crucial, as many live animal traders arriving in Kinshasa with live bonobos and bonobo meat have official documents from the veterinary services of the Ministry of Agriculture authorizing them to bring "gorilla meat" to sell in Kinshasa. Nothing more clearly illustrates the need for education regarding endangered primate species and the laws protecting them among civil servants working in provincial towns closest to the actual habitat of these endangered animals. Our continued efforts in this direction will also afford wild bonobos an additional level of protection.

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