Economic and social benefits for people local to conservation areas are as important to AWF’s work as protecting habitats. In fact, it can be said that they are inextricable. For, when landscape residents lack sustainable livelihood opportunities, they fall back on the forest for nearly all their primary needs. This is even truer in areas that are remote and isolated logistically.
Longtime AWF followers might remember Nakedi Maputla, the leopard researcher working out of South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The intrepid South African recently became our Congo landscape ecologist, where he is working to protect bonobos, forest elephants, and, yes, also leopards.
Despite twenty-five years in Africa, I’d never had the opportunity to see the western lowland gorilla in the wild. Recently, Wilderness Safaris, the South Africa-based tourism company, developed a new destination in Odzala National Park in the Republic of Congo to enable visitors to see these endangered apes, forest elephants and other unique wildlife characteristic of the Congo basin, and to bring some of the benefits of the responsible tourism industry to the parks and people of this country.
Get up close and personal with African wildlife via AWF’s camera traps—a popular technology used in ecological research and monitoring. It is also one of the methods that AWF and its partners employ when studying lesser-known species or monitoring threatened species to better protect them.
For the first time, everyday Congolese are taking an active role in the conservation of their country’s bonobos. In the Congo landscape, AWF has trained 50 people from the Congolese wildlife authority, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), and the local community to use CyberTracker technology units to conduct ecological monitoring in the Lomako–Yokokala Faunal Reserve.