Empty hands, open arms: the race to save bonobos in the Congo and make conservation go viral
ISBN/ASIN: 1571313400,9781571313409,9781571318497 | 2013 | English | epub | 320/0 pages | 4.41 Mb
Publisher: Milkweed Editions | Author: Deni Béchard
When acclaimed author Deni Béchard learned of the last living bonobos—matriarchal great apes that are, alongside chimpanzees, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom—he was astonished. How could we accept the disappearance of this majestic species, along with the rainforest it calls home?
As he looked more closely, Béchard discovered that one relatively small organization, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), has done more to save bonobos than a number of far larger organizations. In contrast to many traditional conservation groups, BCI does not impose a system on Congolese communities. It approaches conservation as a process of exchange, in which the rainforest’s people teach conservationists to understand the local culture and ecosystem. BCI then partners with village leaders, helping them strengthen their communities and address the unemployment and lack of education that lead to the hunting of bonobos. The result is a truly postcolonial model of conservation. And because the local people feel that it emerges from their culture, they replicate its projects independently.
The struggle to prevent the extinction of bonobos is far from easy, to be sure. The Congo has been devastated by war and aggressive resource extraction, and its people are often skeptical of foreign intervention. But Béchard’s moving account—based on travels in the Congo and hundreds of interviews—reminds us that poverty does not equate to ignorance, that change requires more than wealth and power, and that only through collaboration can we make conservation go viral.