Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve
The Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve is the pilot and model for the Bonobo Peace Forest. Harboring one of the largest known bonobo populations, Kokolopori is an exceptionally important site for conservation and research. It is one of the few sites where bonobos are habituated to the presence of humans. Four bonobo groups can be viewed on a daily basis—a boon for both research and ecotourism.
The indigenous Mongandu people at Kokolopori respect ancestral traditions to protect bonobos. The Mongandu are working with BCI and managing partner Vie Sauvage to protect their forest while at the same time improving their quality of life. Together, we have initiated a number of promising livelihood programs, including sustainable agriculture, micro-credit loans and conservation enterprise programs, aid for the local schools, and a health clinic. Kokolopori has inspired nearby communities, on their own initiative, to create their own reserves based on the same model—Likongo, Lingomo and Nkokolombo.
Officially gazetted in 2009, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve is the result of the collaborative efforts of BCI, Vie Sauvage, Kokolopori residents, the DRC government, and various supportive organizations. Information exchange between all of these partners has been crucial in developing a reserve that serves the needs of the bonobos, the forest, and the local communities. The development of the reserve has been driven by local interests and efforts, under the able leadership of Albert Lotana Lokasola, founder of Vie Sauvage. BCI has supported ecological surveys, provided training and equipment, and worked with Vie Sauvage and other community organizations to initiate a number of livelihood programs. This includes a health clinic, sustainable agriculture, micro-enterprise, and more.
The Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve evolved alongside the concept of the Bonobo Peace Forest. In 2003, with support from the newly established United States Great Ape Conservation Fund, BCI and Vie Sauvage signed accords with the villagers of Kokolopori to create a community-based reserve encompassing over 4,850 square kilometers (1,870 square miles). In addition, Vie Sauvage has signed an accord with the Lonua villages to the northeast of Kokolopori, where other bonobo populations live. The reserve is linked through a corridor and buffer zone to the existing Luo Scientific Reserve, home to the longest running longitudinal study of bonobos at Wamba.
Over the past several years, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve has continued to develop coordinated conservation and community development initiatives to benefit all the inhabitants of the forest, people and wildlife alike.
In addition to bonobos, the Kokolopori forest harbors many other species, including a wide variety of primates. The first ever study of the rare Salongo monkey (Cercopithecus dryas) has been initiated at Kokolopori where it is protected by the local population.
Kokolopori has been featured many times in the media, and will be featured next year in National Geographic and the first-ever 3D movie about the great apes!