Green Caps Programme
To conserve bonobos through development in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Like Awely Red Caps, Green Caps come from local populations. If both models appear identical, Green Caps do not deal with human–wildlife conflicts.
Our Green Caps intervene in regions where human activities pose a serious threat to the biodiversity and endanger at least one emblematic animal species. Since early 2008, we have developed a Green Cap programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we are working to improve the situation for the bonobos (Pan paniscus) and villagers sharing the same environment.
Whereas our Red Caps deal with the origins and consequences of conflicts, our Green Caps help us to better understand the situations concerning hunting and animal protein consumption, and to better define the socio-economic context of the targeted zone. In our opinion, it is impossible to find solutions to complex problems without a thorough investigation of the origins, the motivating factors and all the other parameters. Our coordinators in the Congo devote a great deal of time, often in the heart of the forest, to meetings with the target groups: these are the people whose activities directly or indirectly contribute to the decline of the species we are trying to protect. The most delicate task is then to persuade the villagers, who are mostly very poor, that their activities, sometimes ancestral, directly threaten the resources that will be needed by their own children.
Sharing more than 99% of our genetic heritage, our nearest cousins today face a worrying situation. Like all the other animals of the forest, their meat constitutes an appreciable source of protein. Unfortunately, being bushmeat is not the only threat they face. The forest, their very habitat, continues to be cut on a large scale.
So to correctly evaluate the situation and to propose solutions best adapted over the long-term, our Green Caps – Thaulin Efofo and Geneviève Eyau, recently replaced by John Bolola and Marthe Mpafomba – questioned more than 160 hunters in the south of the Basankusu community, in the territory of Equateur where we have installed our office.
These questionnaires aimed to identify hunting territories, methods of hunting, most-hunted species and the situation of bonobos within this activity. Among the collected data, we have found that:
- 95% of the hunters use cables to capture the animals; 77% use shotguns, mostly rudimentary.
- 90% of the hunters have already seen bonobos in the forest, and 80% have hunted them. Some hunters even specialise in bonobo hunting and can kill more than ten apes in a single campaign.
- The family eats part of the bonobo meat, the rest is sold. The bushmeat price is equivalent to that of wild boar or antelope, although these species are much more available.
- All the hunters admit that bonobo meat is difficult to sell and the majority of them know that the law forbids hunting and trade of bonobos.
- 30% of the hunters admit that they have sold baby bonobo meat or sold living animals.
- A great majority of them show an interest in learning alternative activities such as animal breeding.
Similar surveys were devoted to women who are bushmeat traders (more than 45 of them have been interviewed), but also local authorities such as group leaders and village chiefs have been questioned. This allows us to better define the socio-economic situation within our action area, which is today larger than 14 000 km².
Our work is a long-term task. Target groups are distributed over a vast territory and in regions where access is often difficult. Moreover, intense efforts are necessary to earn their confidence. Today, our efforts have been rewarded. Target groups have understood that our intentions were to improve their situation, as well as the situation of the bonobos. Therefore, with the help of the Centre for Agricultural Development of Basankusu, and the recent employment of a local agronomist, we have proposed and intensified training in animal breeding in some concerned regions, with the groups most ready for this. Group meetings are a necessary part of our programme. Our help is never a gift. We prefer to negotiate loans. This is a way to guarantee the cohesion of the group and the respect for internal investing.
Many hunters who decided to participate in our proposed training sessions have declared that they stopped hunting, selling or eating bonobo meat. A formal engagement is made by signing a card as Bonobo Ambassador, and more than 500 hunters now wear this card around their necks. We are intensifying our work in the forests of Ikela and Lofale, two of the main habitats of bonobos in the heart of our project area. We recently have enlarged our team with two new Green Caps in the Mbandaka region. This city, capital of the county of Equateur, is one of the main nerve centres of animal traffic in central Africa, particularly for ivory and bushmeat.
Moreover, our educational activities are developing well. We have just completed the final creative touches to our 36-pages educational booklet to further this programme. It presents the scope of local biodiversity: the forest, its advantages and the dangers it faces; its role in climate regulation; sustainable development and activities that will satisfy the needs of the present generation without endangering those to follow, of course including future generations of bonobos. This booklet is presented in both French and Lingala, with some 5000 copies to be printed in Kinshasa, and it will be largely distributed in our project zone, especially to the children.
Further, we are currently launching our puppet theatre. Thanks to our two local actors, thousands of people even deep in the forest or far on the rivers will discover our play on the bonobos, the forest and the sustainable development.
WAZA Conservation Project 07004 is implemented by Awely and supported by Bonobo, Twycross Zoo, Eco-Sys action. Parken Zoo is punctually supporting our Puppet Show. Leipzig Zoo and Le Zoo de La Palmyre are supporting the printing costs of our educational booklet. Awely is looking for additional partners for the production of this booklet.
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