Bonobo Peace Forest

Bonobo female grooming male, Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, Congo DRC

The Congo Rainforest is an integrated, harmonious ecosystem. The only way to save it is to adopt an integrated, harmonious conservation approach, one that ensures the wellbeing of the forest and all its inhabitants. The Bonobo Peace Forest does not simply address the symptom of bonobo population decline; rather, it addresses the underlying ecological and human forces that shape the bonobos’ destiny.

The Bonobo Peace Forest is the guiding vision of BCI and our local partners: a connected network of community-based reserves, supported by sustainable development. All of the sites and sites-in-development where BCI and partners work are part of the Peace Forest. 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. Peace Forest communities are united in their goal to secure the future of their forests and the bonobos that live there. Since 2001, the Peace Forest concept has evolved organically, driven primarily by Congolese community interests, from the grassroots level to the national leadership. Today, the Peace Forest covers more than 9 million acres (50,000 square miles) of land. We are well on our way to making this vision a reality.

Bonobo Peace Forest Map
Bonobo Peace Forest Map

The Bonobo Peace Forest Concept
We named this network the Bonobo Peace Forest in honor of the peaceful, cooperative society of bonobos. At the time of the Peace Forest’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” ape, bonobos resolve conflict through sexual contact and other forms of social bonding. They serve as a powerful flagship both for conservation and for peace.

Bonobo Peace Forest Top

A recent study by Rainforest Foundation UK reinforced the idea that the conventional “park” models of conservation simply don’t work in the Congo Basin; they fail to protect wildlife and threaten the livelihoods of indigenous people. It’s time to move past the “guns and guards” method of conservation into a new era of peace and partnership. The Bonobo Peace Forest builds more than reserves; it builds a conservation-centered way of life.

Bonobo Peace Forest Awards and Recognition
The Bonobo Peace Forest has been called “a new paradigm for conservation in the 21st century” and was a finalist for the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Challenge, known as Socially Responsible Design’s Highest Award. The Peace Forest was the major announcement of the 8th Annual World Wilderness Congress, which highlighted the role of indigenous peoples in protecting wilderness. The Peace Forest project has been officially endorsed by UNESCO and the DRC Office of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as by the DRC government and numerous local communities. BCI’s work in the Peace Forest was the subject of Deni Béchard’s Nautilus Award-winning book Of Bonobos and Men: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo.

Grassroots community involvement has been crucial to the development of the Bonobo Peace Forest

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 100 conservationists and eco-guards working daily
  • Community development programs, including a health clinic, sustainable agriculture programs, scholarships and micro-enterprise for women
  • Co-founding the first college for sustainable rural development in the bonobo range
  • The creation of the Coalition for Community Conservation of Bonobos, a legally recognized network of local NGOs and other Peace Forest participants, to link and amplify indigenous voices

We need your help to keep our work going strong! Support the Bonobo Peace Forest today.