JGI Scientist Reports from Congo Basin on Action Plan to Save Great Apes

Dr. Lilian Pintea, the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) vice president of Conservation Science, recently reported from Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where JGI is leading a workshop. The Conservation Action Plan (CAP) workshop is the first in a series of meetings planned to identify strategies and actions to reduce the threats to great apes and their habitat in a critical landscape of the eastern DRC. The CAP will target more than 66 million acres, which contain approximately 15,000 chimpanzees and somewhere between 3,000-5,000 gorillas.

JGI is leading the CAP in partnership with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and with support from the Arcus Foundation and The World We Want Foundation. In addition to ICCN, JGI is also working with a broad range of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national and regional stakeholders. 

 

Dr. Pintea’s Notes from the Field

February 10, 2011

Workshop participants, including JGI’s Debby Cox, identify threats to chimpanzees within the CAP landscape.

Photo: Lilian Pintea/the Jane Goodall Institute

The workshop is in its fourth day (seven days to go). The JGI-DRC team—particularly Dario Merlo and Debby Cox— has done a fantastic job organizing and engaging critical stakeholders, and ensuring their attendance at the workshop. Representatives from the DRC NGO community, provincial and national government, police force, mining ministry, and additional key stakeholders are all here. It is truly an incredible collection of people that you rarely see at typical conservation meetings.

During the first two days of the ape expert workshop, participants redefined the CAP area (see map), conservation targets and major threats to great apes and their habitat. The project area covers more than 66 million acres (268,814 square kilometers)—more than twice the size of Virginia! The area is so large that I initially thought that the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software had made a mistake. So, to be certain, I recalculated the coverage three times!

Map of the CAP landscape

Three conservation targets have been identified: chimpanzees, Grauer’s gorillas and their habitat. Participants have agreed to focus conservation strategies on great ape and habitat distribution, which will be measured by the presence or absence of gorillas and chimpanzees within five-kilometer grids.

The situation for gorillas is much worse than we thought. Grauer’s gorillas live only in the landscape covered by the CAP. We thought there were roughly 5,000 Grauer’s gorillas left in the wild. However, the latest estimates seem much lower. The workshop findings on Grauer's Gorillas are currently being analyzed and will be summarized in a paper to be published in the next two months. Mining and poaching for bushmeat are the greatest threats to the gorillas and chimpanzees.

GIS software combined data from a variety of sources. Maps printed by Esri’s Kurt Eckerstrom provided a great way to visualize and better understand the status of and threats to apes and their habitat. These maps have also helped communicate scientific information across cultures and varied fields of expertise. I was told that one of the main advantages of the participatory mapping exercise was not only record critical knowledge from workshop participants, but also to educate them about great ape conservation needs in that region.

Today is also the second day of the stakeholder meeting for the northern section of the CAP landscape.  We are developing and prioritizing specific strategies and actions to reduce the threats to apes and their habitats. George Strunden, JGI’s vice president of Africa Programs, joined us when the workshop began.  He did a great job of representing JGI to top government officials during the formal opening of the workshop. I’ve included a few images from the workshop that I thought you would enjoy.

Best wishes,

Lilian Pintea
Vice President, Conservation Science
the Jane Goodall Institute

 

 

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