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New Bonobo Research Center Complete

  • 03/27/09
  • Paul

Construction of the Lomako Conservation Science Center – AWF’s new bonobo research and conservation station in the Congo Heartland – is complete!

[caption id="attachment_745" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Lomako Conservation Science Center."]The Lomako Conservation Science Center.[/caption]

We’ve come so far for this day: 2 long years of working with local people and the Congolese wildlife authorities (ICCN) to gazette the Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve – the 3,600 sq km protected forest in which LCSC is located. 60 tons of construction material carried 350 km by boat to the site (watch video). 25 hours by wooden pirogue upriver to get there.

[caption id="attachment_653" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The mess building for dining and meeting. Solar panels on the roof supply green electricity."]The mess building for dining and meeting. Solar panels on the roof supply green electricity.[/caption]

The Lomako Conservation Science Center (LCSC) is a superb place for scientists and conservationists to examine a rich, undisturbed rainforest in one of the least accessible parts of central Africa. Lomako is also habitat for bonobos – the least known of the great apes. And perhaps – with the proper systems in place – adventurous tourists could come to see Lomako and the bonobos, brining some much needed revenue to local people.

“The centre will welcome researchers and tourists from all over,” said Valentin Omasombo, who oversees bonobo research at LCSC. The research, he says, “will be used not only to support the ongoing management of the reserve but also to support development for the human populations around this protected area.”

[caption id="attachment_650" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="One of the cabins in which researchers and visitors can stay while at LCSC."]One of the cabins in which researchers and visitors can stay while at LCSC.[/caption]

The research station lies in a small clearing 2 km from the Lomako River. There are three wood cabins visitors, and showers and flush toilets. The mess building has a screened-in dining area and an open-walled sitting area.

[caption id="attachment_651" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The laboratory and satellite for internet."]The laboratory and satellite for internet.[/caption]

A laboratory houses computers, scientific equipment, and other sensitive gear.

Solar panels provide electricity throughout camp and, incredibly, there is satellite internet, enabling researchers to stay connected to the world from this remote section of the DRC.

[caption id="attachment_649" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Local guides have been trained and outfitted to track bonobos and monitor other aspects of tropical forest ecology."]Local guides have been trained and outfitted to track bonobos and other aspects of tropical forest ecology.[/caption]

People from the nearby village of Ndele are employed at the camp. Papa Mawa and Joseph keep everyone fed, Depot and Papa National are camp guards, and several workers keep camp maintained and running. Two teams of bonobo trackers, led by Papa Bosco and Papa Mange, go into the forest every day to find bonobos, recording their movements, nest sites, habituating them to human presence, and monitoring other forest species.

If there are any readers out there who work in or have visited tropical research stations – we’d love to hear from you!

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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