Malebo, encountering bonobos in Congo

Malebo, bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo

With the idea of spotting wild bonobos we travelled to Malebo Site. A unique habitat of savannahs, forests and floodplains in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Malebo is located in the province of Mai Ndombe, in a difficult to reach region 500 kilometres north of Kinshasa. If you don’t want to take a charter flight to Malebo, the trip can take two days of sailing from Kinshasa and two days back, allowing you to experience the fascinating life of the Congo River.

Leaving for Mbandaka at the port of Bolobo
Combination of 4×4 and navigation to access the Malebo Site Reserve in the DRC.

Ecotourism in DR Congo

Since 2005 WWF has managed the Malebo Reserve, which focuses on community-based ecotourism and the protection of wild bonobos that inhabit the various protected community forests.

The Malebo Community Reserve is home to some 10,000 Bateke people, spread across 11 communities. For the Bateke people, eating bonobo meat is “taboo”, which helps a lot in the difficult balance between conservation and protection of the environment VS human and resident peoples’ rights.

Habituated bonobo families

The 7 community forests are estimated to be home to about 30 families with a total of approximately 200 bonobos, of which three families are habituated and are as follows:

  • Mpelu, 15 members, Lokosso-forest-
  • Nkala, 11 members, Nkala forest
  • Mbirima, 29 members, Manzano forest

Bonobo tracking

Tracking bonobos in Malebo has not been at all easy in this first prospective approach. This was mainly due to two reasons: the specific characteristics of the terrain, a hell of a marantase (a plant characteristic of Malebo’s landscape), which is to be expected, and a somewhat “peculiar” organisation that we hope will improve in our next trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we will again combine nature, navigation, culture, history and urban movements.Translated with (free version)

WWF in Congo

Next trip to Congo to see wild bonobos

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