Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Conservationists Partner for Bonobo Conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

January 31, 2011


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in partnership with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, the Arcus Foundation and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has convened a year-long strategic planning process involving major conservation organizations working to conserve bonobos (Pan paniscus) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The bonobo is one of several species of great apes that include chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Bonobos are found only in remote forests of the Western DRC and exhibit distinctive social behaviors from their chimpanzee cousins. The challenges confronting bonobo conservation stem not only from direct threats of illegal hunting, habitat loss and disease but also from indirect threats. Successful bonobo conservation is limited by institutional weakness, lack of coordination of conservation activities and civil insecurity.

The strategic planning process will culminate with a 4-day workshop in Kinshasa, DRC, January 19-23, 2011. The meeting will benefit from coordination by the IUCN’s Primate Specialist’s Group Section on Great Apes. Over 40 conservationists representing all conservation groups actively protecting bonobos and their habitat are confirmed to attend. “As threats to this wonderful species continue to grow, the need for all stakeholders in the DRC to come together to develop an effective, long-term conservation strategy is paramount. A lot is riding on the success of these efforts”, said Herb Raffaele, Service Chief of Division of International Conservation.

The Service is a key donor and partner to organizations implementing conservation projects in the DRC. From 2006-2010, the FWS Great Ape Conservation Fund awarded 20 projects totaling $2.4 million (with $2.9 million in matching funds) to support bonobo conservation. Support has assisted partners to identify previously unknown bonobo populations, curtail illegal hunting, develop community conservation agreements and raise local awareness.

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