“Building bonds for conservation: 20 years in the Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo”
Gay Edwards Reinartz
The Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative Program Director
Conservation Coordinator at the Zoological Society of Milwaukee
The Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is Africa’s largest tropical forest park (33,317 km2). It shelters the world’s greatest expanse of pristine lowland rainforest that is home to approximately 40% of the bonobo (Pan paniscus) population and a remnant herd of forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). Numbering at least 20,000 individuals, the bonobo is a rare great ape endemic to DRC. The bonobo and forest elephant are emblematic of the country’s rich mammalian diversity and the challenges DRC faces to conserve its natural treasures. Two decades ago, the Salonga was virtually a no-man’s-land, exploited by armed poaching gangs and ivory hunters. The insufficient guard force lacked the capacity to mount effective patrols to protect the park, patrol logistics were insurmountable in the remote landscape, and the country reeled from recent civil war. Based on 20 years of experience in the Salonga, Dr. Gay Reinartz will describe the challenges, and progress made, to safeguard Salonga’s biodiversity using the example of the bonobo and forest elephant and the development of the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI). BCBI is a multifaceted program that provides financial, material and technical support to the Salonga National Park. The initiative supports anti-poaching patrols, conducts biomonitoring surveys, and partners with local communities to enhance their educational opportunities. BCBI’s story mirrors the complexities of working in a region impacted by poverty and years of civil war, where human need and the call for nature conservation, often in sharp juxtaposition, demand our immediate attention to find solutions.
Dr. Gay Reinartz is an internationally recognized conservation biologist with more than 20 years of experience in developing and directing conservation and research programs for the bonobo, an endangered great ape found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She presently serves as the Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s (ZSM) Conservation Coordinator and Program Director of ZSM’s Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI). Based in the Salonga National Park, BCBI collaborates with the country’s park authority and other conservation partners, including World Wildlife Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society, to mitigate loss of biodiversity – with a focus on bonobos and forest elephants – and to control bushmeat and ivory poaching. As a partner in the CAFEC/USAID-funded Salonga Landscape consortium, BCBI supports anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement activities, guard training and literacy, biomonitoring surveys, applied ecological research, and community assistance projects. Since 1997, Dr. Reinartz has directed conservation activities in this remote region. She earned a Ph.D. in conservation genetics and evolutionary biology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a master’s degree from the School of Forestry and Environmental Science, Duke University.
ADDITIONAL EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES
Dr. Reinartz will also deliver a talk on Thursday, September 27 in B302 Birge Hall at 3:30PM for the UW-Madison Biology colloquium titled, “Assessing bonobo and forest elephant populations in Salonga National Park, DRC.”
Sign up for an appointment with Dr. Reinartz!
Interested in Dr. Reinhartz research? Consider signing up for an appointment while she is on campus.