bonobo release – report from the field

this is from Gladys, a volunteer at the release site:

Wow! Best experience of my life!

Oh my God, the past few days have been amazing! I’m not even sure where to start!

Ok, On Sunday the bonobos arrived safely in Basankusu, they where loaded onto a truck in front of a public worthy of a football stadium…so much for a discreet arrival!

I was waiting at the ABC house, and was very emotional from the moment I saw their cargo plane pass overhead! I couldn’t believe they were actually arriving! So we had about 10 policemen mobilised in front of the house and the truck soon arrived, the animals were in fact awake, a bit scared but they where ok, they were hidden under some big tarps! As fast as possible they were offloaded from the plane and set in the garden in the shade, there we tried to give them all some water but they where a bit too wary of everything that was going on around them. As fast as we could we (well the carriers we had hired) carried them down to the river and onto the raft. Max and Lomami where the most agitated ones, but they soon enough calmed down. Then we set off together, the raft and the pirogue traveled together for a bit and then we went ahead to get off by the enclosure and clear the tunnel for the raft before it arrived … Soon enough people where coming along on their little pirogues to see the arrival, the police men who were with us had to tell them to leave … for the sake of the bonobos … we needed a calm atmosphere!

So then we were all waiting near the enclosure and finally we saw the raft arriving with its precious cargo! They moved in for the rehearsed entry into the tunnel! And then … Oh no! Just as they were finalising the entry one of the two motors came loose and nearly fell into the water … resul t… crash into the tunnel of electrified wires! Luckily we had turned the electricity off for the arrival! But our first fear was that the whole enclosure would not work now so how could we release the bonobos?

Luckily we tested it and it still worked in their enclosure! Phew!

So then we began unloading the bonobos … this was the first time for so many people to see bonobos … they were a bit wary even though they were in their cages. So we carried them through the sas and set them down in the shade. I went around with the others giving them peanuts, water, bananas etc. and it was good … they were relatively calm … but were eager to get out of their cages!

We waited for things to calm down a bit and most of the delegation of officials who had followed us left … we then left Claudine, Stany the keeper from Lola and Suzy who knows the bonobos very well, inside the enclosure ready to release them one by one from their cages … The whole process took about an hour, letting out the calmest ones first, letting them look around and start eating before letting out the next! And finally they were all out looking around their new but very temporary enclosure.

We all sat and watched them until night fall, looking around, eating, having a bit of sex of course and settling down for the night but on the ground, we had hoped they would head for the trees and make nests … never mind!

Then we set off for the camp across the river which thanks to Marielle’s hard work (and the workers of course) was just lovely! We had some food, showered and all hit the sack … it had been a long day for all … especially those in Kinshasa who had got up at 2 a.m. to begin all the bonobo work

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