The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Friends of Bonobos-Dr. Brian Hare

Have you been to a football game lately? Think of the last time you were in an arena that seated fifty or even a hundred thousand people. That many people can make a lot of noise, but of course only represent a tiny piece of humanity today. If we could convince all the bonobos in the world to attend such a game, you could not come close to filling even the smallest professional football stadium. Our closest living relative is slipping off the precipice; their extinction in our own lifetime is a real possibility.

The best estimates of the current bonobo population in the wild are somewhere between 5,000–50,000 individuals; all live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the only country in which they are found indigenously (Teleki and Baldwin 1979, Kano 1984, Van Krunkelsven 2001). While it might seem an administrative blessing to have bonobos concentrated in one single large country, this rare species still shares all the problems of population fragmentation, habitat loss, and victimization due to the bushmeat trade practice by their African cousins. In addition, by being concentrated in one country, this species’ survival is dependent upon the state of one single nation – for better or worse.

The ubiquitous threats to African apes seem particularly acute in the case of the bonobo as a result of DRC’s ill fortune during the past decade. However, the DRC has begun recovering from a decade of wars and now has the chance to jump from an impoverished victim of an oft forgotten war between seven nations, to a regional power as it struggles to redevelop its shattered economy through what to many must seem like an infinite supply of natural resources (Clark 2002). What will the increasing political stability and economic opportunity mean for the remaining wild bonobo populations? How is the future of the remaining bonobo populations linked
to the fortunes of
Congo? What methods are available and which ones should we utilize to assure their survival in the wild?

In this chapter, we outline how Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary plays a vital role both in offering lifelong care to bonobos who become orphans of the bushmeat trade, and in acting as an instrument for the conservation of the remaining wild bonobos.

We present data on the arrival rate of bonobo orphans that suggest that the fate of wild bonobos is inextricably linked to DRC’s path towards development. We therefore argue that the coming decade will be a crossroad for the wild bonobo, and that all methods available, however disparate, must be used to assure their survival. As a result, we conclude by considering the possibility of releasing sanctuary bonobos back into the wild as a possible future tool forfor the stabilization of wild bonobo populations.

The Conservation Strategy for Apes

There is only one method for the protection of wild ape populations, and that is through the protection of ape habitat. There are three conventional steps to protecting this habitat: 1) work with a government to set aside as large a habitat area as possible where human activities that are detrimental to ape survival (e.g. hunting and logging) are banned, and such bans are consistently and effectively enforced; 2) work with the government and local population to implement programs for sustainable economic development and education in and around the protected area; and 3) demonstrate the direct economic value of the protected area to the government and
local population – typically through tourism. Implementing these three steps has produced success stories where wild ape populations which were destined for extinction have been protected for decades through aggressive efforts to protect their habitat and health. The mountain gorillas arguably represent the most famous
case of such success. This species, with its small population size, would likely be extinct today if its remaining habitat was not actively protected, attention had not been drawn to their plight, and they were not recognized as a valuable economic asset for attracting tourists.

Previous success gives hope for the future that we will continue to improve our success gives hope for the future that we will continue to improve our ability to protect sustainable numbers of the remaining wild ape populations. However, the unfortunate reality is that protected area management in ape habitat countries has proven to be fraught with difficulties, and in most areas, including those with the highest levels of protection, wild ape populations are in decline Jolly 2005, Butynski 2001). These difficulties are born from a complex of sources.

Historically protected areas have not been gazetted based on population viability assessments but instead, and quite understandably, on a “bigger is better” philosophy. Meanwhile, protection comes in many different flavors. Laws are often either too weak to allow for appropriate enforcement or enforcement is too inconsistent to
protect slow breeding ape populations that are especially vulnerable to acute hunting and logging pressures (White and Tutin 2001). Overall, many wild apes – including bonobos – live within unsustainable, genetically isolated populations that cannot depend on consistent protection from human threats (e.g., imminent threat from disease, hunting, logging etc). As a result, even some protected ape populations have all but disappeared, such as the gorillas of Kahuzi Biega, UNESCO World Heritage Site DRC, the bushmeat trade has flourished, and thousands of orphaned infant apes have flooded markets across Africa over the past decades. If we are to save a place for wild bonobos (and other great apes), effective tools are needed to further strengthen the conventional protected area strategy and reverse the current trend.

Sanctuaries for Conservation

African ape sanctuaries have evolved as one such supplemental tool by offering a second level of protection to wild ape populations when frontline conservation strategies failed to protect individuals from the bushmeat trade. As a member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary is one such sanctuary located just outside of Kinshasa, the capital of DRC. Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary has been in operation since 1996 and is the DRC’s and the world’s only sanctuary for orphaned bonobos.

Since 2002 the sanctuary has provided 30 hectares of primary tropical rainforest to the bonobos who live there. Previously the sanctuary, with smaller numbers of bonobos, was located in facilities at the American School in downtown Kinshasa.

Currently, 53 bonobos now range freely in three different social groups throughout the day at the sanctuary (see Table 15.1 and Fig. 15.1a). Typically, bonobos arrive as young infants and begin life at the sanctuary with close care from a substitute human mother, but are usually quickly ready to be integrated into a peer group, and shortly after into one of the large mixed-age social groups (See Fig. 15.1b). This means that the sanctuary bonobos can supplement their provisioned diet by navigating in order to forage on the dozens of edible plants available in the forest, can compete for mating opportunities among group mates, and can learn to avoid dangers
such as stepping on poisonous snakes just as they would in the wild. As a result, the bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary, living in their forested microcosm, are for the most part able to exhibit the full complement of naturally occurring behaviors observed in wild bonobos (in fact, they actually display some behaviors such as
tool use that had not been observed in the wild.

Because of the living conditions in the setting provided, the sanctuary can play a critical role by demonstrating the level of humane treatment that captive apes deserve, the same time, why do we also believe that sanctuaries like ours help protect wild apes? First, our sanctuary allows for the enforcement of domestic and international
conservation laws aimed at preventing the trade of live bonobos. Second, the sanctuary acts as a mouth piece for conservation efforts in DRC by educating thousands of Congolese visitors each year about the value of
Congo’s natural history, in particular the bonobo – their unique Congolese inheritance.


No comments:

Post a Comment