On June 16, 1998, twenty-five years ago, Alison Mize and I co-founded the Bonobo Conservation Initiative, together with our founding board members, Bill Meade, Ted Green, and Steve Hamblin. We reached out to an amazing group of dedicated and talented people from a range of disciplines to take a creative look at how we could best preserve the bonobo species and its rainforest habitat in the Congo Basin.
We realized then, as we do now, that the key to protecting bonobos is to work hand-in-glove with the local and indigenous people who share their forest, many of whom maintain ancestral traditions that respect bonobos as kin.
We also realized that a multi-disciplinary approach would be required, one that worked within the local culture and addressed the many aspects of bonobo protection—biological, sociological, and economical. We needed an integrated systems approach aimed at creating collective solutions to benefit, uplift, and empower the local communities to take the lead in conservation and sustainable development in their own forests.
That was our goal—and the Bonobo Peace Forest is the result!
All of this is thanks to our tried and true Congolese partners who are working every day in their communities—and to you for your ongoing support.
Today, we celebrate all we've accomplished so far:
- Establishing two nature reserves spanning 9 million acres of rainforest
- Pioneering a new paradigm for community-led conservation in the DRC that is replicating on its own
- Raising awareness about the importance of our sister species in the DRC and around the world
- And so much more!
But, we're only getting started! Now it's all about growing and sustaining the Bonobo Peace Forest and working together to ensure that bonobos will be with us for generations to come.
On this special day, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for all of the wonderful people and partners that have contributed to our mission in so many ways. And especially to our friends at the First Light Foundation who have generously offered a $25,000 challenge grant to give us a boost as we take our work to the next level.
Most of all, we give thanks to the bonobos themselves, who provide never-ending inspiration—and show us humans that it is possible to live in peace.
Tokolonga elongo! Together, we will win!
Sally Jewell Coxe