Gardeners and Guardians of the Rainforest

We’ve long known that bonobos are key to understanding ourselves, but a new study affirms they’re also a keystone species for the Congo Basin. By transporting seeds around the forest and improving their viability, bonobos foster diversity that’s crucial to the health of the ecosystem. That’s not hyperbole: According to the study’s authors, many plant species rely primarily on bonobos for reproduction. The bonobo can be considered “a gardener of the Congo forests,” they suggest.Bonobos eating bolingo; Photo Credit: Christian Ziegler, National Geographic

David Beaune and his research team tracked a bonobo community for more than a year, observing what they ate, how far they spread seeds, and whether those seeds sprouted. They learned that ingestion or manipulation by bonobos conferred a high germination rate. Because of the bonobos’ size, they can ingest larger seeds than other animals in the same range. The authors conclude that “the bonobo may disproportionately affect the regeneration process of these plants….the extirpation of this primate from the ecosystem is likely to lead to an irreplaceable loss of current ecosystem services.” In other words, the health of the forest, and of the species that call it home, really do depend on the continued existence of bonobos. As the “second lung” of our planet, the Congo rainforest sequesters carbon and produces vast quantities of the oxygen we depend on – reinforcing how important bonobos are to our well-being.

The bonobo relationship with the forest parallels the relationship our eco-guards have with bonobos. As the bonobo populations revive and spread seeds through the Congo Basin, improving conditions for diverse growth, so do our trackers spread through the forest, creating a haven in which the bonobos can live and reproduce. They are the guardians of the bonobos, of the species that depend on the forest, and of the forest itself.Bonobo tracker; Photo Credit: Bonobo Conservation Initiative

Just as seeds need the right conditions to germinate, our trackers need the right resources to act. They need machetes to cut trails, radios to communicate, and salaries to provide food and shelter for their families.  Recurring donations provide those things and promise future sustenance. A monthly commitment of even a small amount allows BCI to plan for the future, knowing that we can depend on monthly income to pay our trackers.

Gardeners and guardians both appreciate your support. Thank you for helping them to nourish one of the greatest gardens on Earth!

For more information, check out the report! (PDF)