This story totally sucks. It’s bad enough that we kill each other. That we use AK-47’s on each other. That we massacre each other. I don’t know why this strikes me as so fucked up…sometimes I wish we would all just disappear from the planet. Imagine a world of french kissing, peaceful, love making Bonobos….
Now realize that we humans are destroying it…
Look, I don’t have enough money to pay my rent that was due yesterday…but I’m still going to make a donation to The Bonobo Conservation Initiative. You should too. Do that here
MBIHE-MOKELE, Congo – Even as Congolese villagers devise novel ways to snare the fast-disappearing bonobo, scientists are racing to save the gentle “hippie chimp” from extinction.
The bonobo, or pan paniscus, is closely related to man and known for resolving squabbles through sex rather than violence. It’s also prized by some Congolese for its tasty meat. The wiry, wizened-faced chimps are being killed in treetop nests in Congo’s vast rain forest, their only natural habitat in the world, by villagers who do not seem to know how fast their prey is disappearing.
“Bonobos are an icon for peace and love, the world’s ‘hippie chimps,'” said Sally Coxe of the Washington-based Bonobo Conservation Initiative. “To let them die off would be a catastrophe.”
Bonobos are known for greeting rival groups with genital handshakes and sensual body rubs. Bonobo spats are swiftly settled — often with a French kiss and a quick round of sex.
Despite all the sex, female bonobos give birth to a single infant only once every five years, making the species especially vulnerable.
As few as 5,000 bonobos may now remain in Congo, down from an estimated 100,000 in 1984, according to primatologist Ino Guabini of the World Wildlife Fund.
“There is no question that bonobos are seriously threatened,” Guabini said, speaking over a shrill forest symphony of birds, animals and insects. “We need urgent measures or there is no way we can protect the species.”
But for poor Congolese villagers, bonobos can be lucrative business.
One bonobo can earn US$200 (about euro170) for dollars for Richard Ipaka, a 50-year-old part-time poacher in the provincial capital Mbandaka.
“That’s enough money for two months,” said Ipaka, who did not know bonobos were endangered and only found in the wild in his country.
Bonobos are most easily captured when asleep drunk, say poachers in Congo’s Equator province who intoxicate the chimps with bottled beer and palm wine before tying them into bags for local meat markets.
Others use firearms or leave poisoned meat in the forest, silently killing packs of up to 20 bonobos at a time.
Ipaka, who uses a battle-worn Kalashnikov to shoot sleeping bonobos in their treetop nests, said he hunted most often with bands of militiamen left over from a string of rebellions, coups and conflict in the troubled country.
Consecutive wars that began in the mid-90s saw thousands of hungry refugees and soldiers crisscross Congo’s forest, devastating bonobo and other animal populations for food. These days bonobo meat is mostly destined for dinner tables at clandestine city restaurants, poachers say.
Congolese insist the bonobos, subject of age-old songs and legends in this region, could never disappear.
“Our ancestors have been eating bonobos for centuries, how could they disappear?” asked Ipaka.
But the peace-loving apes are increasingly difficult to sight, and not just because they’re good at hiding, suspended from the high branches of trees or swiftly traversing the lattice of thick, muddy roots strewn over the forest floor.
The best place to glimpse them these days may be the Bonobo Paradise sanctuary in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, home to a few dozen rescued from poachers by police.
A bonobo dangled on one arm from a high tree branch in the sanctuary recently, munching a banana and watching two others hug and kiss below. A half hour later, all three were romping on the grass, massaging each other and crooning lovingly.
In the Equatorial forest village of Botwalu, locals believe the bonobo was once a man who lived with their tribe but now hides in the forest because an angry tree stripped him of its clothes.
“The bonobo is a man, only it is ashamed to be naked,” said Mokelo Moibula, a Botwalu notable and chief of a village committee that works to protect bonobos. “It is wrong to hunt or eat bonobos.”
More than three years after war ended in Congo, a conservation group is bringing together communities that hold to such hunting taboos to create a constellation of forest reserves where the graceful chimps could swing between trees unhindered.
“So far we’re working on an area larger than the size of Wales, and it’s getting bigger,” said Coxe of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative, which aims to create a “peace forest” for bonobos.
Conservationists still have a long way to go however, with even provincial police, mandated to protect bonobos, mostly ignorant about the chimp and sympathetic to its diners. Even some police eat them, said Clerivent Kanyamba, deputy chief of the Equator province’s police.
“What can we do if bonobo meat is tasty?” Kanyamba said.