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Reconnecting With Old Friends

  • 02/12/09
  • Valentin

On January 30th, Nancy Thompson Handler contacted me through my previous post. Nancy conducted research here from 1980-1991. She wrote:

Having spent five years doing research in N’dele between 1980-1991, I am so excited to see your blog. I cannot believe that there is now a satellite dish in camp. We did not even have a functioning radio telephone! Take heart, even in the old days, the bonobos would disappear for long periods of time. The group (the Hedons) mostly seen on the western side of the study site with which I was most familiar during 1980-1982 was not seen at all during the 1984 field season and rarely after that. Please give Richard’s and my regards to Bosco, Charmante and any of our old field assistants. My time at N’dele was the best of my life. There have been so many technological advances since the 1980’s that you should be able to gather much better data on their ranging and behavior. Best of luck to you. I’ll be following your blogs and if there is anything we can do to help you, please let us know.

Thank you for your comment on my blog, Nancy! I find your response very encouraging as since I started up the blog, you are the first researcher who has worked at Ndele to have made contact.

Ndele remains one of the few sites where bonobos have been and continue to be studied by scientists from all horizons. But in this crucial part of our study the bonobos have been rare for over 9 months, they no longer make the usual evening vocalisations as they build their night nests or during feeding, probably due to the fruit shortage in the forest. For us, it is the first time we have experienced such a long period with so few encounters with the bonobos (maximum 4 a month and 2 on average).

As to the trackers, we are still working with your old team: Papa Bosco; Papa Sayo; Papa Charmant; their children and other colleagues who came from the site of Iyemba about 15Km away from Ndele. The Iyemba site was started in the 1990s by the primatologist Jef Dupain who is now the Director of the AWF project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and he initiated the development of the new research centre at Ndele to add to the research already carried out on the bonobo population of this forest.

All our team here, particularly Papa Bosco and his family, even those who you may not know, were delighted to hear of your contact via the blog and are very grateful. They pass on their regards and make the most of the opportunity to pass on their regards to all the other researchers who have spent any length of time, long or short, at Ndele and wish to have any news that might reach us here.

Having mentioned the group of bonobos named the Hedons, named Bakumba by the German researchers, and their neighbours, the Rangers also known as Eyengo; we have found them again and they still seem to by occupying the same territories: the east and west regions of the research area. Unfortunataly, we have not yet managed to identify the individuals of each community and are unsure where their territories end and begin.

So to you and any other researchers having spent time here in Ndele and indeed other conservationists and researchers interested in this species, we say : Thank you for your intervention and please continue because your comments on this blog, your suggestions and any contributions to our research and conservation project for the last of the great apes, will not only help us on a scientific level but will also, and perhaps more importantly, encourage us to persist with life here in the middle of the equatorial rainforest in the interest of preserving our closest cousin.

About the Author

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.

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