Paco Bertolani, PhD Candidate
University of Cambridge
The Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba area (TL2) lies at the eastern edge of the bonobos’ species range in the Congo basin. In what eventually led to the creation of the TL2 Project, Terese and John Hart organized extensive surveys of TL2 starting in 2007. They confirmed the presence of bonobos in this area, estimating a population of over 10,000 individuals. This relatively pristine, remote habitat had the potential to be an area of extraordinary importance for the future of bonobos.
In a Leakey Foundation research grant awarded in spring of 2011, Paco Bertolani proposed a pilot study to assess the feasibility of establishing a long-term site for bonobo behavioral research and conservation in TL2. He and his team would conduct surveys in search of bonobo traces. This would include detailed mapping of the study area as well as the collection of fecal samples for genetic analysis and surveying the health of the bonobos. They would also monitor signs of hunting and other human disturbance in collaboration with TL2 Project staff.
In the report below, Bertolani summarizes the results of his team’s findings, including his assessment of the feasibility- and riskiness- of establishing a long-term bonobo research site in TL2 where poaching is a serious problem.