In 2016 a network called the Alliance for the Conservation of Great Apes in Central Africa (A-GSAC) was created by six NGOs to improve the conservation of great apes in the region. The NGOs operate in Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, DRC and Gabon and all work in a specific context with individual priorities for conserving bonobos, gorillas and chimpanzees. Together, they have a strong desire to share experiences, to act on common issues and to explore new ways to promote their work. The Alliance functions as a platform for learning exchanges on technical and strategic issues, supporting members on a regional scale to build capacity and promote good governance.
Forests within the Congo Basin, spanning four different countries.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Bonobo Pan paniscus , Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes , Cross River Gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehli , Western Lowland Gorilla Gorilla gorilla gorillaProducts in trade
Great apes are caught alive or poached for the illegal commercial and bushmeat markets.
Overview of the problem
Illegal hunting is widespread in the Congo Basin and 70% of the great ape populations have disappeared in the last 50 years.
The anti-IWT initiative
The Alliance is formed of six NGOs, who each focus on their own set of activities.
Mbou Mon Tour (MMT)
MMT works in the DRC on bonobo conservation. Their primary activity is to raise awareness to reduce hunting and the consumption of bonobo meat. Communities are involved as village trackers, who work across different sites to monitor and survey the species. MMT supports local communities to develop initiatives compatible with conservation, such as sustainable agriculture and ecotourism.
Groupe D'appui À La Conservation Des Ecosystèmes De Basankusu Et Bolomba (GACEBB)
GACEBB works in the DRC to promote the conservation of the Basankusu and Bolomba ecosystems, which includes populations of bonobo, by supporting local communities to implement income generating micro-projects. Examples of projects include goat breeding, fish farming and vegetable gardening.
Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERUDEF)
ERUDEF works in Cameroon to conserve gorillas and chimpanzees and protect ecosystems though community training, education and participation. Programs include livelihood and economic development, conservation finance, and communication and corporate partnerships.
Tropical Forest and Rural Development (TF-RD)
TF-RD works in Cameroon in the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR) and aims to provide environmental education on gorillas to local communities adjacent to the DBR. In 2013, TF-RD implemented a project to help support farmers to intensify their cocoa production. A similar project aims to promote better cohabitation between gorillas and cocoa farmers. Overall, the mission of TF-RD is to create a socio-economic environment that empowers local communities and conserves biodiversity through four activities: environmental education, development of Non-Ligneous Forest Products, agroforestry and ecotourism.
Endangered Species International Congo (ESI Congo)
ESI Congo works with local communities to reduce poaching and hunting pressure on gorillas and chimpanzees in Congo Brazzaville. The main areas of focus are research, conservation education, alternative economic activities, and strengthening sustainable natural resource use and biodiversity management. A community fund has been developed from ecotourism and a local committee aims to improve participation and involvement of local communities in conservation initiatives.
Association Protectrice Des Grands Singes De La Moukalaba (PROGRAM)
PROGRAM works in Gabon to integrate local communities in the process of conservation, in particular great apes, to develop community ecotourism and to diversity economic activities to fight poverty and reduce anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Improving education and awareness
Has the initiative made a difference?
Results vary per NGO, but PROGRAM have greatly increased the number of tourists per year since 2010.
In Congo, MMT have reaffirmed the taboo surrounding hunting bonobos, leading to six villages devoting a portion of their forest to the protection of the species. The monitoring sites regularly host researchers and bonobos can now be seen in the wild for the first time in a long period.
What doesn’t work and why
Issues vary per NGO but MMT have experienced difficulties with a lack of resources and qualified staff. Stronger support from the government is also needed. In addition, it is difficult to gain recognition from the general public due to communication problems, leading to a lack of support. It is hoped that the Alliance will generate more international awareness.
Organisers, donors and partners
All NGOs are partners of the Small Initiatives Program (PPI) funded by the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) and implemented by IUCN.
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