Lomako is a sector of the Befale Territory in the Tshuapa district of the Province of Equateur, DR Congo. The local population is that of the ‘Mongo’ who share the forest with the bonobos.
In 1973, the Mongo population saw the first researchers arrive with their bonobo research projects. Projects, which would not have been possible without the contribution of the indigenous population who were employed as trackers, fishermen, carriers etc.
The Mongos involved in such projects benefited by earning a salary, bonuses and other advantages, often receiving gifts. These benefits allowed them to organize themselves: some built houses, others would buy a bicycle, a sewing machine, a radio or other manufactured goods, it also allowed them to send their children to school.
But life is never all roses and in the 1990’s with the collapse of Ex-Zaire, the war began which shook the country, and the researchers were foreced to leave and the projects had to shut down.
Misery followed, taking the whole country. Agriculture, which was an important source of income, was no longer fruitful due to the degraded roads. As an alternative, the population turned to hunting in the forest for the bushmeat trade, in order to buy basic necessities, pay for health care and to keep their children in school. The bonobos (Edja in the local dialect) soon fell victim to the hunting activity.
When faced with the hunting for the bushmeat trade, the families of Papa Bosco Ikwa Nyamalolo and Papa Mange Bofaso, devoted to the conservation of the bonobos, stayed in the forest awaiting the return of the researchers and for the projects to start up again. These two families continued to inform their ‘brothers’ of the importance of the bonobos but were betrayed by the enemies of conservation: the immigrants from the East and the West who continued to hunt the bonobos to earn a living. This was the least of problems faced by these two families who, in 1997, were threatened, tortured, beaten and pillaged by the military soldiers.
Despite all the suffering, they never abandoned the bonobos and still today, remain in the forest to protect them.
New change was soon to come. In 2004, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) came to the Province of Equateur for the first time as part of a project initiated by CARPE/USAID, which aims to reduce the degradation of the forests and the loss of biodiversity by developing sustainable management of natural resources.
So what future does the AWF have planned for the bonobos of Lomako and for Papa Bosco and Papa Mange, as well as the population living within the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba landscape? To be continued...
Valentin blogs about bonobos and conservation from one of the wildest places on earth: the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- and the remote Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve. Pivotal in establishing the Lomako Reserve in 2006, Valentin now oversees bonobo research from the new AWF conservation science camp here. Thanks to a satellite internet connection, Valentin brings the Lomako forest and the fascinating world of bonobos to you.
AWF Blogs bring you to the African Heartlands, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.