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Where do Bonobos Live?

Bonobo Habitat | Congo Rainforest | Democratic Republic of Congo

Bonobo Habitat

Bonobos are found in only one country: the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They inhabit the heart of the Congo Basin, the second largest rainforest on earth. The bonobo habitat spans approximately 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) and is bordered by the Congo River to the north and west, the Kasai River to the south, and the Lualaba River to the east. This region is also home to a vast array of other wildlife species including leopard, forest elephant, sitatunga, bongo, okapi, forest buffalo, congo peacock, and a variety of primates.

Congo Rainforest

The Congo rainforest is so vital to our planet that it is called “the second lung of the Earth.” Second only to the Amazon rainforest, the Congo rainforest covers 2 million square kilometers (772,000 square miles) and spans six nations. Around two-thirds of the rainforest is found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and bonobos inhabit some of the forest’s most remote and biologically rich regions. The biodiversity of the Congo rainforest is staggering, containing thousands of plant and animal species.

The trees in the Congo rainforest are remarkable not only for their size and number, but also for the role they play in mitigating climate change. Trees convert carbon into biomass, and it is estimated that the Congo rainforest contains between 25 and 30 billion tons of carbon. Deforestation and forest degradation have major implications for climate change. Approximately 20% of annual greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and other land-use change. Keeping this rich tropical forest intact will make an important contribution to global efforts to reduce emissions while simultaneously conserving biodiversity. Preserving the Congo rainforest is key to protecting our planet.
Bonobo range in DRC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a diverse nation with many ethnic groups, languages, and a complex history. The region was a Belgian colony from 1885 until 1960, when it regained independence. When the first elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated, the country fell under the control of Joseph Mobutu, a dictator who ruled the rechristened “Zaire” from 1965 to 1997. Mobutu was ousted by a rebellion organized by Laurent Kabila.  Kabila changed the name of the country to ‘Democratic Republic of the Congo,’ but was assassinated in January 2001. Laurent Kabila’s son, Joseph Kabila, of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy or PPRD, was named head of state.  Joseph Kabila has led the country ever since, winning the country’s first democratic elections in 2006 and 2011.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is rich in natural resources and mineral wealth, but ranks among the poorest nations on Earth. Development was significantly hindered by the outbreak of the Congo War. The DRC civil war, which began in 1996 as an indirect result of unrest from the neighboring Rwandan conflict, involved seven nations and resulted in the deaths of more than 5 million people. Many of these people died of disease and malnutrition as the Congolese infrastructure broke down. Bonobo populations also suffered as a result of the conflict. As the situation in DRC worsened, hunting of bonobos for bushmeat increased. Although the war officially ended in 2003 and UN peacekeepers remain in force, conflict persists in the eastern part of the country as militias supported by neighboring countries continue fighting, largely over Congo’s vast mineral wealth. Fortunately, the bonobo habitat remains mostly peaceful.

  • Congolese life expectancy, 54 years, is one of the lowest in the world.[1]
  • Only about 10% of the employable population has a formal job.
  • There are over 200 African ethnic groups in DRC.  The four largest tribes are the Mongo, Luba, Kongo and the Mangbetu-Azande.
  • The languages spoken are French (official), Lingala (a native language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, and Tshiluba.
  • There are many religions practiced in DRC, and in addition to traditional indigenous beliefs (observed by10% of the population) Congolese are Roman Catholic (50%), Protestant (20%), Kimbanguist (10%), and Muslim (10%).

Despite the difficulties the Congo has endured, the Congolese government and many communities are dedicated to preserving the beauty and abundance of their country. The government has committed to set aside 15% of their land for conservation. BCI works with Congolese partners to achieve their conservation goals and secure a brighter future for the country.


[1] Out of 221 countries ranked by the CIA World Factbook.

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