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DRC: violence threatens to close the world’s only bonobo reserve

Ekolo ya Bonobo could close. The world’s only bonobo reintegration reserve, located in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been at a standstill since 13 June 2023. The reason: violence perpetrated by as yet unidentified armed assailants in Basankusu, in the Equateur province where the reserve is located. Four primates were shot dead.

This is a precautionary measure, and it is not yet known how long it will last. Those in charge of the Ekolo ya Bonobo reserve have decided to suspend their activities in order to get a clearer picture of the violence they are facing. For several weeks now, the world's only bonobo reintegration reserve, located in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been facing the wrath of its local residents.

According to local sources, on 13 June 2023, local residents of Ekolo ya Bonobo shot dead four primates and set fire to houses on the reserve site, before marching down to the commercial and administrative centre of Basankusu, where they marched along the main thoroughfares. The crowd dispersed in the early afternoon thanks to deterrent fire from the police.

Failure to comply with social clauses signed with park residents

Local residents blame Abc Ekolo ya Bonobo, an organisation set up in the region 14 years ago to protect the Bonobo monkeys, for failing to comply with the social clauses signed with them. These include the payment of customary royalties.

The situation was the subject of a meeting of the territorial security committee attended by Abc Ekolo ya Bonobo officials. "We hope that the investigations currently under way will enable us to understand who these people are and what their demands are, so that we can sit down and work together, within the framework of the Conflict Resolution Committee, which is a body specific to the reserve, to resolve this situation peacefully", hopes Fanny Minesi, General Manager of Abc Ekolo ya Bonobo, speaking to RFI.

The size of the bonobo population is unknown, as only 30% of the species' historical range has been studied. The bonobo is a particularly threatened species due to its exclusive distribution in the DRC, a region ravaged by war, deforestation, diamond mining and hunting for its meat.

Boris Ngounou

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