Dancing on the Dugout, Crying in the Forest

Porters dancing at end of trip
On the return trip the dugout turned into a disco as it approached Opala, home of the porters. That’s Maga on the pot turned tomtom on the right.

This note is from Terese. Ashley is closing down our little depot in Kisangani where we have stored all of our tents, outboards, cooking pots, and remaining fuel. He’ll follow me today to Kinshasa.

This past week in Kisangani was very successful, but that is not what I am going to write about here. Next post.

Here I want to underline the urgency that Ashley and I both feel about this “forgotten landscape” to the south of Kisangani.

Obenge, little village four days by motorized dugout south of Opala (about 300 river km), is THE hunting outpost for two big, bustling commercial centers : both Kisangani, much farther to the north, and Kindu to the southeast. Although they seem on the map to be a mere 200 to 300 km away, this is by winding river and forever meandering footpath.

Neither Ashley nor I is opposed to locally controlled hunting of small antelope, even primates, but that is not what is being staged from Obenge. Hunting with weapons of war and hunting that targets rare species such as the rapidly disappearing forest elephant and the endemic bonobo, our closest animal relative, is something else. Bonobo live ONLY in the forests south and west of the Congo/Lualaba River, they are social, curious, communicative and vulnerable.

Ashley did not send me the two pictures below of a freshly killed pregnant bonobo. He found them too depressing, but I did appreciate seeing them. It helps me understand what we are up against. And for that reason, I am posting them.

August 07 Obenge
Female bonobo, just killed and brought into Obenge by the dugout in the background.

bonobo female August 07 Obenge
She was pregnant, they later removed a nearly grown fetus.

I want to emphasize that there is no sadism in the hunting of these animals. Greed of the few that really profit – yes. But these few are not the ones who handle the guns and “own” the forest. What is needed: community outreach, information and alternative sources of income.

We will keep you posted.


  1. Posted 2007-08-31 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    My god. For many years I didn’t look at photos such as the ones you’ve posted, because I couldn’t stand it. But I’ve come to realize that I must look, that I owe it to these creatures to witness their suffering and their death. It is hard to see and it never leaves me.


  2. Wanda
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    How many are left in the Congo, I have read and there are no solid numbers I guess as with gorillas but at this rate and if the man has killed 20 like it is nothing that you spoke to and elephants also – at that rate extinction sounds close – this picture makes it all so real and so bold it just gets you in the guts – this bushmeat trade, I pray to God someone does something soon and it is even coming into the U.S.

  3. Christine
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Sheryl and Wanda (and of course our terrific authors of this blog) I share your revulsion, and I too have been hesitant to look at such pictures. But, they do help to drive the message home, don’t they? My greatest fear is that the problems in Virunga will remain if there is no way to convince the people of that region the importance of preserving and respecting human life — if we cannot do that, it will be very difficult to ever get anyone to see the value of a bonobo, a mountain gorilla, a hippo, or any other of the wonderful animals that reside in the park. As it is, yet another ranger has been slain, another seriously wounded. It is truly heartbreaking, but I so admire everyone who is in the region doing the very best they can to remedy the situation…I do think that other, “bigger” interventions are needed though, to protect both the people and the animals.

  4. Ann
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    your efforts need much more visibility than what we read on your website. as with the gorillas, people need to see this on news websites all over the world.

    i’m not sure how this could be accomplished, especially since i read the blog yesterday about ‘black gold’ being found near a bonobo habitiat and the soon to commence aquisition of it,
    i think approved by the government.

  5. Posted 2007-08-31 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    this is Terese here: Ann where did you read about “black gold” being in a bonobo site? I would really like this reference. In general the lowlands to the west have not had as many natural resources as the gold rich, coltan rich, cassiterite rich and diamond rich right bank of the Congo River. BUT we too feel that in some areas it is just a batter of looking. Ashley has pictures of diamonds form near Obenge. (!) But do give me the source (here as post) for the oil. Thanks!! And thank you everyone for the concern. It is encouraging.

  6. michael kramhoeller
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    hello therese,

    black gold
    please look at the block of the lukuru
    project in wildlifedirect (bonobo).

  7. Posted 2007-08-31 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    michael so — no outside information
    obviously I am uneasy

  8. Lisa
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    It hurts to see these pictures and it is very hard to look at them. If we don’t look, then how can we do anything about it. I agree with Christine. It’s all so heartbreaking. Lisa, California

  9. Ann
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    it’s on the wildlifedirect website. jo thompson’s bonobo project in Lukuru. look at the listing of the blogs on THIS website and click on Jo Thompson’s blog entries.

  10. Ann
    Posted 2007-08-31 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    i am having trouble verifying the information about possicle oil concessions somewhere in/around lukuru. the only thing i found so far was Tom Griffin’s news website The Green Ribbon which just alludes to oil concessions problems being granted to some oil companies, Tulow, and another one. i don’t have time to pursue this right now. i’ll find some info next week.

    takes a lot of digging – search on

    ‘Minister for Hydrocarbons, Mr. Lambert Mende’ and ‘congo oil concessions’ to find stuff on google.

    there are articles on Blackwell Synergy’s publishing website ( they publish a lot of scientific journals) but you need to buy the articles or journal issues and they are sometimes expensive.

  11. John
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Great posting…THe pix convey the reality of the threats to bonobos, even in this vast scarcely occupied region– and the priogue travel to get there. Congrats to the team…Hey Mama T, How about a posting on your meeting with the general in Kisangani…How can we move to stop the carnage? Obenge is in the heart of the landscape….What next there?

  12. Lisa
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    On one of the Wildlife Direct blogs there was a link provided where I read about how bushmeat is sold in high end restuarants in the U.S. (I can’t find that blog now) Anyway, what kind of restuarant would sell bushmeat and is it actually called bushmeat on the menu? Lisa, California

  13. Terese
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    to Anne — thank you very much! Ashley saw no prospecting going on and did not hear of prospecters — but he saw disturbing evidence of oil at one point… I will follow up on your leads and if you hear anymore PLEASE let me know.
    Lisa — I don’t know about high end restaurants? What I do know is that a Congolese friend looked in ethnic markets in NYC and found smoked bushmeat from Africa.

  14. Wanda
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    next week I will write all political parties about to run in this country for president and I will express my concerns and disgust that this country sells bush meat which makes us no better than the Europeans that want our horses to eat —- which we have stopped now thru congress–only we can stop by demanding the pliticians stop it — it’s a good time to apply pressure to the candidates!!!!!

  15. Lisa
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Terese. Wanda, that is a great idea and I agree that it is a good time to apply pressure. I’m going to do the same. We should bombbard them with correspondence regarding these issues. Also, is there anyway to connect Wildlife Direct to other organizations, such as the One Campaign to stop poverty? I saw a young guy yesterday wearing a One Campaign T-Shirt and I thought, Wow it would be great if Wildlife Direct hooked up with them and got their name out there to all the young people interested in the One Campaign. And then I thought T-Shirts. I would wear a Wildlife Direct T-Shirt. I have a friend who’s company does all of our school T-Shirts. Anyone interested in a Wildlife Direct T-Shirt? All proceeds could go to Wildlife Direct. Lisa, California

  16. sheryl
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Hell, I’d wear a Wildlife Direct T-shirt, plaster a bumper sticker on my Civic, and wear one of those little rubber bracelets. I wrote earlier this year to my House representative, but we’re going to get a new Senator next election so I’ll start writing to my Congressional members and possible candidates. Bushmeat in the U.S.? God.


  17. Lisa
    Posted 2007-09-01 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    LOL! Sheryl, you are so funny! I’m with you girl! Where are those Wildlife Direct rubber bracelets, bumper stickers, and T-Shirts and for that matter, where’s Oprah? LOL! Lisa, California

  18. Terese
    Posted 2007-09-02 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Letters to senators and representatives could be very effective. Great idea! In Goma (nov 05) I once met Senator Durbin and Senator Brownback at a brief dinner about conservation in DRCongo. Bring it back in front of them. Needed now: Effective conservation in war-beleaguered parks of the east and effective conservation in the large wild areas (tshuapa-Lomami-lualaba) before they are razed of bushmeat and sold into concession!

  19. colleenmoritz
    Posted 2007-09-02 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    hi again, the link to paypal still isn’t working- but it does reference Africa Conservation Fund- should i go directly to them or if you like, i could get in touch with paypal..?..other news, after i wrote my first letter to you I made a design for a t-shirt and showed my boss the next day who offered to sponsor this idea – I will get a web page up this weekend to show you what i have so far and then if you like, you could tell me what you think it should say..or look like, and we can take it from there…is it feasible to ship a large box to your location?
    and there is a place that prints very cheap postcards, i think that would be a good idea just to use as a photograph/info card, nothing to do with the post…thank you for sharing those photographs, they express the urgency.

  20. Ashley
    Posted 2007-09-02 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Hi All. This is Ashley here finally. I just wanted to briefly say I am back in kinshasa with Terese now and thank you all so much for the donations and interests shown in what we are doing here. This is the first time I have actually seen the blog. It is to difficult on the dugout! Sorry for some of the pictures I felt sick taking them I assure you. All of you write to your senators etc. I believe we can make a difference. Terese and I are really pushing here as well. Despite the problems it is a truely beautiful area of forest and worth every effort to save it.

  21. Lisa
    Posted 2007-09-02 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Colleen, Can’t wait to see the T-Shirt. Terese and Ashley, I’ll be writing letters. Lisa, California

  22. Posted 2007-09-02 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Like many of you I was sickened by the photographs of the Bonobo, which I came across unexpectedly and totally unprepared for, when I visited this web-site yesterday. I would not have viewed them by choice, but now, I’m glad I did. Too many of the worlds populace are cushioned from the true horrors of what is happening. We live in cosy worlds with so many materialistic distractions which take our eyes off the ball. Brief reports in our National Newspapers of the horrors that are taking place in the Congo keep us informed. But that is not enough. If more people throughout the world could be made fully aware of these horrors by seeing these graphic photographs, I know it would make a huge difference. The T shirts are a great idea, but how would I (U.K.) get hold of some? What I HAVE found very comforting, is to know, after reading these comments, that there are so many good and caring people out there ready and willing to do something about this. You all sound quite young, which is also gratifying, as it is this generation, and all those to follow, both animal and human, who really hold the baton in this crucial race.

    Love, Jane. United Kingdom

  23. Wanda
    Posted 2007-09-02 at 6:02 pm | Permalink


  24. Posted 2007-09-02 at 6:15 pm | Permalink


    During the next 48 hours, I shall picture you in my mind, all busy scribbling away and lobbying your senators (as, indeed, I intend to do with my local M.P.) and Barry Manilow’s brilliant song ‘One Voice’ will thus take on a whole new meaning for me!!! Good Luck & Best Wishes To All.


  25. Terese
    Posted 2007-09-02 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Colleen, If the paypal donation system is not working then best to contact
    info@wildlifedirect.org or
    I, too, am absolutely delighted by the idea of T-shirts. Ashley will be back at his home in England at the end of September and for the first week and a half of October before returning here. You can contact him via this email: ashvosper@hotmail.com. If there was a package ready by then he would be delighted to bring it back. !
    We are looking forward to seeing the web page.

  26. colleen
    Posted 2007-09-03 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    two days straight on a computer – i never put up a web site on my own before, but, then again, i never designed t-shirt before either…these are all rough sketches and i am open to suggestions, especially for the type…ps. i used the word ELIA on some, is that correct for the local word for bonobo? note: blank is for silkscreen, 2 is digital, 3 and 4 are for cards (pages, click at top)

  27. John
    Posted 2007-09-03 at 5:16 pm | Permalink


    In response to Ann and others, please checkout the Bushmeat crisis task force. http://www.bushmeat.org/.

    this is proving to be an effective forum for action both in africa, and beyond where the bushmeat trade reaches.

  28. colleen
    Posted 2007-09-03 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    just a thought – after looking at bushmeat.org –
    it doesn’t seem any of this will make a difference until government gets out of bed with corporations.
    and changing people’s minds about eating apes with t-shirts? even if we could convince nine out of ten hunters to stop killing primates, that tenth would just be a very wealthy man…In India, cows are more valuable alive, so religion made them sacred….that seemed to have worked quite well.
    I remember reading the headlines in April 2004 about Rwanda, and being confused – why wasn’t anything being done to stop it? All the front pages of newspapers didn’t matter- but then again, nor did the millions of people that marched on February 15 2003 to stop the US from going to war with Iraq…. I think counting on people caring is not the answer… maybe we need to ask the question again….how to stop the killing? but a good thing is to see how many people do care, and that is something inspiring.

  29. Terese
    Posted 2007-09-03 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I doubt if we ever know exactly what makes a difference or how BUT I am convinced that multiple efforts and methods make a difference. And what does not affect one person will affect another. Even where strong arm efforts are needed….there are other efforts that are needed to raise the popular push that makes the strong arm effort possible.

  30. Posted 2007-09-04 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    I agree, Terese. A T-shirt won’t stop the killing or the war just as a concert won’t stop global warming pollution, but it’s possible that a T-shirt or a concert will raise awareness. Right now I think that’s an important goal because there are more people who don’t know what’s happening in Africa than people who do know and care.

    Having said that, I like the first T-shirt, especially the green one.


  31. michael kramhoeller
    Posted 2007-09-04 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Bonobos and okapis(!!!) discovered on
    upper lomela right east of salonga national park.
    heavily hunted for fetish(!!!)
    See http://www.bonobo.org/NL-Lomela.htm
    I’am sure here the T-shirt project would help. The people are very poor.

  32. Wanda
    Posted 2007-09-05 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Colleen — I love the T-shirts!!!!!

  33. Lisa
    Posted 2007-09-05 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Colleen, I love the T-shirts too! Wonderful! Is there anyway to put a Mountain Gorilla on one or two of them, maybe with the Wildlife Direct logo or something. There is truly something about the Mountain Gorilla that steers ones heart and I am reminded of something I read on Art Helping Mountain Gorilla’s website:

    Eye Contact

    “They look up at you from their wrinkled, black leather faces and it’s . . . it’s . . . well, it’s awfully difficult writing about mountain gorillas. Words are unable to convey the emotional impact of the experience. When one first locks onto your gaze with its beautiful, wise, chocolaty-brown eyes your brain explodes. It thwacks you in some ancient corner of your medulla oblongata and comes out as tears. When the gorilla looks away you feel instantly lonely.”

    By the way, please check out the art at http://art4gorillas.blogspot.com/ I was in tears. It is all so beautiful! Lisa, California

  34. Posted 2010-12-03 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I have never seen or heard of something this awful and horrifying. I thought I was going to see cute pictures when I looked up Bonobo, bbut this is not it.

  35. Terese Hart
    Posted 2010-12-04 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Yes, unfortunately large swaths of bonobo habitat no longer have bonobo — or any large mammals — because of the bushmeat trade.
    Most of the cute pictures of bonobos are taken at Lola ya Bonobo, the excellent bonobo orphanage in Kinshasa. Unfortunately the origin of all these rescued orphans is dead mothers and often large parts of the groups were killed.

  36. Siraganda
    Posted 2011-09-01 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Why do you agree the killing of small antilopes? You are a speciesist like Goodall and harming the real animal rights thought! Pampering chimps and bonobos has become modern – but it is the dog who saves human life during catastrophies – and not the chimp!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  37. Terese Hart
    Posted 2011-09-02 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    It is not that we think that it is a good idea, but there is no law against killing small antelope in DRCongo and there is a law against killing all apes. The only way to protect small antelope is to create a park and that is what we are trying to help do in the TL2.

  38. Tom
    Posted 2012-02-22 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    every wilderer should be punished hard. maybee with deathpenalty. this has to stop. the inhabitants of congo are a shame of mankind. let´s get rid of them instead of the beautiful animals

  39. Amanda
    Posted 2012-03-11 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    If you people really care, don’t just hope somone does somthing soon, you should do something, not just hope somone else does it, if you cant go there at least send donations or supplies for the amazing people who are actually doing something about this horrable situation. you sit there in your cozy computer chairs and pretend to care, well do something about it, actually help. I myslef am heading out to the congo as soon as I finish college in a year or so. for all of you people who act like you care and say something should be done, think about this, just because you wish someone else will do something dosen’t help these creatures in need, you need to do something YOU NEED TO MAKE THAT DIFFRENCE!

  40. Posted 2012-07-12 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi Amanda, (comment 39)

    I admire your passion and your intensity, but if you hope to change this situation on site, in the Congo, part of your preparation will need to be learning to shoot a gun, and achieving the mental state necessary to use it on people.

    This killing is the last link in a long chain; to really have a chance of stopping it you need to work at the beginning of the chain.

    The Western world, at least the corporate part of it, needs a constant source of cheap labour and new consumers to maintain the continuous economic growth that it is committed to. By going into “third-world” countries, and providing life-saving medical service and other services without providing the means and the imperative to control the consequent population growth, large numbers of landless, dependent, and desperate people are created. These people are the corporate world’s future stock of cheap, malleable labour, and eventually consumers. This increased population needs more land, which takes away the natural habitat of bonobos and all other species.

    Like the people of the West, these people are taught to value material possessions for their own sake; not the material positions that exist in their own culture, but the unobtainable material positions of the West; however, they won’t have the means to obtain those material possessions. These conditions create inconsolable need to obtain money by any means, with little concern for the broader consequences.

    Traditional land tenure is weak in the face of corrupt Westernised local governments, so when land is wanted for minerals, or cash crops for foreign exchange, it is easy to take, which further reduces the natural habitat and increase the desperation of the people.

    Although these circumstances seem far removed from a picture of a dead bonobo, they are truly what underpins that death. Every hunter/poacher removed will be replaced by another until these circumstance change; so, if you truly want to save bonobos, and many other things, you must deal with these social changes first.

  41. Scott
    Posted 2014-08-11 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Why does that female bonobo have what appears to be balls, someone know?

  42. Chris Andrews
    Posted 2014-08-16 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    That’s her labia.

  43. anon
    Posted 2022-09-23 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    How could you kill a Bonobo? They are almost extinct. Kill a chimp instead. Bonobos are altruistic creatures kind and empathic. You monsters

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Ashley) by satellite thuraya. He was with Maga in the new primate camp west of Obenge. Maga in August of last year. Happier times. Beating the rhythm on empty jerry cans while the porters dance in the […]

  2. […] Ashley) by satellite thuraya. He was with Maga in the new primate camp west of Obenge. Maga in August of last year. Happier times. Beating the rhythm on empty jerry cans while the porters dance in the […]

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