Bonobo Peace Forest
The Bonobo Peace Forest (BPF) is the guiding vision of BCI: a connected network of community-based reserves and conservation concessions, supported by sustainable development. The Peace Forest provides protection for bonobos and other species in the Congo rainforest, while at the same time ensuring a better life for the people who share this precious land. Bonobo Peace Forest communities are united in their goal to secure the future of their forests and the bonobos that live there. Since 2001, the Bonobo Peace Forest concept has evolved organically, driven primarily by Congolese community interests, from the grassroots level to the national leadership. Today, the BPF contains 11 active sites and covers more than 50,000 square miles (193,000 square kilometers) of land. We are well on our way to making this vision a reality.
We named this network the Bonobo Peace Forest in honor of the peaceful, cooperative society of bonobos. At the time of the BPF’s conception, the Congo was suffering from a war driven by competition over natural resources. Unlike humans and their other closest relative the chimpanzee, bonobos do not murder or wage war on others of their own kind. Often referred to as the “make love, not war” primate, bonobos resolve conflict through sexual contact and other forms of social bonding. They serve as a powerful flagship both for conservation and for peace.
In 2002, with support from the Global Conservation Fund of Conservation International, BCI conducted the Bonobo Reserve Pre-Feasibility Study, analyzing the potential to create a substantial protected area for bonobos in the heart of their range in DRC’s central Congo River basin. During the course of this study and extensive consultations, the concept for the Bonobo Peace Forest was further developed in collaboration with Congolese scientists, local leaders and government officials.
Rather than a traditional national park that would displace local residents, we proposed the development of a linked constellation of community-based forest reserves combined with sustainable development zones. This method of conservation would ensure that bonobos and the forest would be protected by those with the greatest interest: the Congolese people themselves who share the forest and know it best. As a result of their integral role in maintaining the forest, the local residents receive the benefits of more abundant economic opportunity, greater access to education and medical care, and preservation of their natural environment for future generations.
Bonobo Peace Forest partners have taken the initiative to create the legally recognized Coalition for the Community Conservation of Bonobos. This dynamic entity will link local conservation actors regionally, serving as a management structure and as a network to share information, facilitate collaboration and improve local governance.
Praise for the Bonobo Peace Forest
The Bonobo Peace Forest has been called “a new paradigm for conservation in the 21st century” and was the major announcement of the 8th Annual World Wilderness Congress, which highlighted the role of indigenous peoples in protecting wilderness. The BPF project has been officially endorsed by UNESCO and the DRC Office of the Kyoto Protocol. DRC President Joseph Kabila hails the idea as providing both a practical and conceptual link between the wise management of natural resources and enduring peace in the DRC. The region is emerging from a tragic war fueled largely by exploitation of Congo’s natural resources. We are working closely with DRC government institutions, local communities, and NGOs to designate new protected areas and corridors of critical importance to the long-term survival of the bonobo and its rainforest home. These community-managed protected areas can serve to maintain the peace in the DRC and to build sustainable economies.
A Sustainable Solution
Together with our local Congolese partners, we have created a pioneering model of conservancy that is both cost-effective and sustainable.
Look what we’ve achieved so far:
- Two nature reserves spanning 31,000 square kilometers (12,000 square miles)—the size of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined
- Accords in place and projects initiated in nine key sites where bonobos are protected by local people
- More than 250 conservationists and eco-guards working daily
- Community development programs, including a health clinic, sustainable agriculture programs, scholarships and micro-enterprise for women
- The first college for sustainable rural development in the bonobo range
- The Coalition for Community Conservation of Bonobos to link and amplify indigenous forest voices
We need your help to keep our work going strong! Support the Bonobo Peace Forest today.