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Building the Bonobo Center in the Congo

  • 09/23/08
  • Paul

In our Congo Heartland, construction on a bonobo research and conservation center is making great progress dispute all odds. The site is at Ndele in the middle of the 3,600 km² Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve, and is not so easy to get to.

A boat carrying 60 tons of construction materials took 30 days to travel up the Lomako River to the site of the research center. Not one single item was lost along the way.

Jef Dupain (director of the Heartland) told me "some of our people went swimming upriver Lomako, crossing forest and swamps, to go and get 35 liters of fuel to continue the transport! (I have seen the crocodiles, and I have seen the current, and I know about snakes in swampy area). This is simply heroic work done by our team."

People were so happy to see the boat -- it's the first one up the Lomako River in 20-30 years -- that they had a dance party. Check out the short video clip on YouTube:

The research and conservation center will consist of a building with a laboratory, a living area and dining room, and office; and housing for scientists and visitors. The center will also be a place to help train and educate Congolese conservationists, strengthening local conservation measures.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in two months. I'm going to join Jef and the team to do some communications/marketing activities when it's complete. That is, if I can survive the journey up the river to get there.

A typical scene along the Lomako River
A typical scene along the Lomako River. Photo by Craig R. Sholley

About the Author

Paul began with AWF based in Nairobi for a year, before moving to Washington DC. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at The Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is a member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leadership initiative and is working on a conservation campaign to combat the illegal trade of Asian pangolins. Paul enjoys photography, travel, hikes in the woods, music, and nyama choma.

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