Field surveys have been a very important part of BCI’s work in the Congo. Because bonobos were the last apes discovered and remain the least studied, information about their range and population distribution has been limited. Though scientists conducted some research in a few key sites prior to the Congo War, the war disrupted efforts and left many questions unanswered. As the war wound down and BCI was able to enter the field, our teams set about answering the most fundamental questions—where are the bonobos and where can we best protect them?
Our first step in any survey process is to conduct Information Exchange with local communities. Their knowledge of the forest is unparalleled, and the most effective way to obtain important conservation information is to build relationships between conservationists and forest residents. Once trust is established and BCI is welcomed into the forest, our teams begin looking for signs of bonobos or bonobo activity.
BCI uses standard survey methodology, working with other conservation groups to collect and compile accurate information. Combining line transect and recce (reconnaissance-transect) methodologies, researchers gather data about the presence and relative abundance of bonobos and other flora and fauna in a given area. Our survey results are sent to the A.P.E.S database, hosted by the Max Planck Institute, where the information can be accessed by the greater scientific community.
This ongoing survey process has enabled BCI to discover or confirm the existence of bonobos in eleven strategic regions, leading to the creation of the Bonobo Peace Forest. As BCI and partners continue to monitor and survey areas throughout the bonobo range, we learn more each day about bonobos and the biodiversity of their rainforest home.