The populations of bonobo (Pan paniscus), a endemic great ape to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are declining rapidly due to the pressure linked to the growth of the human population, the disappearance of taboos on hunting, the economic crisis, political instability, degradation, deforestation of its habitat and epidemics. This species is fully protected by Congolese laws. It is listed in appendix 12 of CITES, class A and on the IUCN / SSN red list as an endangered species.
Although the Congolese state has created protected areas to conserve this species, the populations of this species are constantly decreasing. And yet, this species is protected by the local communities of North Batéke in the territory of Bolobo by a local taboo against hunting in an area where it was thought extinct. Given that the link between sustainable protection and local development and the objective of associating local populations with the benefits of promoting biodiversity so that they become concerned and stakeholders in conservation having been ratified since the 1980s; the Congolese state has in its forest management policy provided for community forest management programs (Forest Concession of Local Communities), which allow communities to legally obtain rights of use and sustainable management of surrounding forest resources and provisions to maximize the benefits of livelihoods and protect biodiversity.
To continue protecting bonobos of their lands threatened by the arrival of immigrants who do not respect their taboo, the local communities of Bolobo have created a non-governmental organization called Mbou-Mon-Tour (MMT). MMT designs a world where people meet their primary needs through the sustainable management of natural resources and its mission is to support local communities in the creation of development initiatives through the conservation and rational management of biodiversity. In search of nature-based initiatives, MMT quickly understands the challenges of conserving and enhancing the bonobo as a driver of local economic development and decides to protect this species in an organized manner. To do this, it adopted a strategy that focuses on conservation management centered on the environment, through the creation of community’s forest.
This strategy enables communities to secure land tenure in their forest lands and to have control over the management of their spaces to combat both the loss of biodiversity and the improvement of their income. MMT has asked the Congolese state to grant a forest concession of around 500 km² to each community to develop conservation of the Bonobo. Currently, six communities have received legal titles for their community forests and are developing the conservation of the bonobo through revalorization of the US and customs, observance of the laws, participatory community surveillance and the development of ecotourism and alternative activities.
The innovative, creative and realistic approach of MMT which goes from conservation by cultural tradition (taboo) to formal conservation by the creation of community conservation areas coincides with the vision and mission of Conservation Optimism. Hence, MMT seeks to share stories, tools and optimistic ideas to benefit from Conservation Optimism expertise in order to continue to effectively protect the bonobo.