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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Bonobos

Envisioning the Future of the Bonobo Reserve

With BIOPAMA support, Ekolo team develops goals to enhance biodiversity protection at Ekolo ya Bonobo
a group of people sitting inside a room discussing
Collaborators work together to evaluate and plan for Ekolo ya Bonobo

As part of planning for the future expansion of Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve (EBCR), Friends of Bonobos of the Congo (ABC) completed its first management effectiveness evaluation in December 2021. The evaluation identifies key areas of focus for improving and advancing biodiversity protection at the 120,000-acre site in Équateur Province.

Bonobos rehabilitated at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary were first returned to the wild at Ekolo in 2009. A second reintroduction is slated for completion in the spring of 2022.


The review was possible due to a grant from the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Program, (BIOPAMA) a collaboration of the European Union and Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

ABC collaborates with the local communities and with the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) on the operation of Ekolo, so representatives from all stakeholders took part in the six-day planning workshop. The team used the international assessment standard called the IMET (Integrated Management Effectiveness Tool).

The workshop at the basecamp in Elonda, near the reserve, was led by two ICCN coaches trained by BIOPAMA. ABC’s department chiefs and two representatives from each of the three partner communities participated as well.

“We discussed every little detail of the management!” said Cintia Garai, ABC’s manager and scientific director.


Key recommendations from the team’s 44-page technical report include:


  • Promote the production of fish and other non-wood forest products (e.g. caterpillars) on which the communities depend heavily.

  • Integrate the monitoring of conservation values likely to be affected by climate change into the research and biomonitoring program and develop a mitigation or adaptation action plan.

  • Establish a carbon market project for the benefit of local communities.

  • Set up a complaints management mechanism for the local communities.

  • Continue and enhance the monitoring and control of the practice of sustainable fishing.

  • Explore the criteria to meet the requirements for Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) to endow EBCR with a special status internationally (e.g. World Heritage Site).


  • Fundraise to meet urgent needs for investment in workspace, equipment and boats, and tourism infrastructure.

  • Recruit and train at least eight forest guards (underway), and a technical and scientific assistant.

  • Develop a capacity-building plan for the EBCR staff focusing on identification and monitoring of plant species, monitoring of fish stocks, mapping spawning grounds and sacred sites, and more.


  • Train local forest guards and periodically rotate the ICCN ecoguards assigned to Ekolo.

  • Equip informants with means of communication to support the fight against poaching (underway).

  • Integrate into the biomonitoring program the collection of weather data, water data, monitoring of ecosystem services and the effects of climate change on the conservation values of the site.

  • Inventory the non-timber forest products.

The IMET evaluation provides a road map for activities in the reserve and serves as a baseline for gauging future progress, Garai said. “We plan to repeat this process on a yearly basis to keep an eye on our collaborative and adaptive management.”

A group of people wearing blue shirts holdng a sign tha says Reserve Communitaire Ekolo ya Bonobo
Workshop particpants gather for a group photo


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