Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Conserving the "Last Great Ape"
Bonobos were the last great ape discovered, and could be the first to go extinct unless concerted action is taken now to protect them and their rainforest home. Threatened by illegal logging and commercial bushmeat hunting, no one knows how many bonobos remain in their natural habitat. Classified as endangered, they have disappeared from some areas and like chimpanzees; bonobo society is "male philopatric," meaning that the females migrate to other groups when they reach puberty. This eliminates the chance of incest and increases genetic diversity. However, the wild bonobo population is so fragmented now, with small groups living in isolated pockets, that the sustainability of the species is severely threatened and this is why it is critical for BCI to establish protected areas and corridors to provide genetic viability of the species.
Bonobos share a human landscape, and our work with indigenous Congolese people is an important aspect of bonobo conservation. In the past few years, BCI survey teams have discovered new bonobo groups in important sites, and together with partners, we are expanding the search.