In April, for only the second time a group of Bonobos torn from the wild was rereleased: future?

I have written about Bonobos in the past, I hope that readers are aware of this species. In brief, Bonobos (often known as Pygmy chimpanzees) are a separate great ape species. These two species split about 1 million years ago as the Congo river formed and became an impenetrable boundary between them intermixing again.

Looking very like Chimpanzees, these animals behave in a very different way

Found only in the DRC and the last of the great ape species to be discovered, Bonobos should be of great interest to humans.

Continue reading “In April, for only the second time a group of Bonobos torn from the wild was rereleased: future?”

Gains in the Virunga national park of the DRC are encouraging but threats continue

For the last 3 years there has been a significant baby boom in the forests of the Virungas. This is highly encouraging for the long term survival of the mountain gorillas that live here.

Unfortunately many threats remain. Parts of the park are potentially about to be reclassified for mining, and there are invading armed groups in various parts of the forest.

Currently, the DRC section of the park contains roughly 350 gorillas, though this number includes all mountain and lowland gorillas. However, the armed groups often make money by hunting wildlife both for bushmeat and the pet trade.

In recent years, Mountain gorillas have been moved from critically endangered, to the endangered list. However, this generally is in relation to the reduction of the population over the last few years. If the population reaches a small size, then reductions of any level are likely to wipe them out. This has not happened, thankfully, but given a population of only 350 animals, it is foolish to think that this wildlife population is out of danger, quite the contrary, it would take very little for this population to disappear – STILL and so we must not relax.

Current threats thought to exist for the park long term, do not worry about poaching, so much as land lost to oil and mineral extraction. Remember that an area can be deforested in a matter of a few weeks, it can take a century for the forest to return.

Deforestation particularly in protected reserves has happened at an increasing rate in the democratic Republic of Congo

Unfortunately deforestation in the largest remaining African rainforest seems to be going on more and more. Unfortunately not only is this happening in general, at a large quantity of this over the last two decades has also occurred within protected areas.

If this happens across the DRC, there will be many problems particularly as the amount of carbon dioxide released would largely lock in in an unacceptably large amount of temperature rise. However in the natural world, it would also severely damaged the long-term future of gorillas chimps and the last of the bonobos.

Can we save bonobos, the great ape most similar to humans? They are more endangered than we thought.

According to the African wildlife foundation estimates, there are 15000 to 20000 bonobos left in the wild. Bonobos or pygmy chimpanzees are thought to genetically be closer to humans, certainly their appearance – they are thinner, have thinner faces and a more noticeable crop of hair on their head, but are horrifically threatened.

Although these bonobos do not look human, they look very different to other chimpanzees.

Yet it would appear that even this estimate is too high.

Continue reading “Can we save bonobos, the great ape most similar to humans? They are more endangered than we thought.”

The Grauers Gorilla population is twice as big as thought! Out of the woods? Not so fast

The Grauers gorilla, also known as the Eastern lowland gorilla (confusingly often found in the mountains, just not exclusively as the mountain gorilla is) is a close relative of the mountain gorilla.

Grauer Gorilla: less endangered than thought but still close to extinction
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Might rising temperatures kill the Congo rainforest? Its a carefully balanced system

Recent studies have shown a potential problem for the Congo basin rainforest – one of the remaining “lungs” of the world.

It would appear that rising temperatures are having an adverse impact on the amount of fruit that is produced by this forest.

Forest elephants carry out many important tasks in the Congo basin. From dispersing seeds to knocking down small trees, the forest may well collapse without them
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It seems climate successes don’t last: vast peatland to be destroyed for oil below in the Congo basin. Important habitat for forest elephants and gorillas

Back at the beginning of 2017 a vast peatland was discovered deep in the Congo Basin. Storing an astounding amount of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 3 years of world carbon emissions, covered by primary rainforest that was completely undisturbed with large populations to the forest elephants and gorillas this was a real success story. Despite storing so much carbon is there only accounts for 4% of the Congo Basin

Remote Congo peatland swamp to be deforested

Fast forward 3 years, and there is a new and less encouraging story in the Press. Intention is to drain portions of this area so as to be able to drill through it and access the oil underneath. While this would not release carbon emissions equivalent to the world’s population it would be equivalent to Japan’s entire CO2 emissions.

It is thought that this peatland bog sits over 395 million barrels of oil.

While it is frustrating that this country is going back on on agreements it made, it really is in trouble. As with many countries in Africa it has borrowed much money from the rest of the world during various catastrophes, this amount of oil with completely change the country’s finances. 

Congo brazzaville president Denis Sassou-Nguess said that the work would not destroy the forest all the majority of the peatland and as the oil reserves lie on the edge of this vast area ( this area is an equivalent size to England). However analysis done on reports from their country re done by their own scientists estimate at the area that would need to be drilled which store release more than 1 gigaton.

There is also arguments as to how much all there really is there. After initial surveys were done both Total and Shell rejected the offer to be involved in extracting the oil. An expert from Shell argued that there was nowhere near as much oil as the government was claiming and that therefore for the risk reward balance was not good enough to be worth continuing. With all this risk it is highly unlikely that any Western Business or bank would be willing to invest, unfortunately there are substantial numbers of banks in places such as China who do not worry about the same things. Time will tell if sense prevails in this issue. 

Perhaps this country could agree to set aside twice as much land lost in this reserve elsewhere in the country? There are many unprotected areas of pristine rain forest in this country. If the country where to do something like this they could reassure the global community that they take conservation seriously while at the same time developing this oil field.

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