About Our Project

The TL2 Project of the Frankfurt Zoological Society is made up of a group of Congolese and international conservationists.  They work in the center of the Democratic Republic of Congo with Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN) and the communities around the Lomami National Park to assure protection of the park and of the surrounding forests that support the local hunting-farming economies.

The Lomami National Park has more of Congo’s iconic species than any of the country’s other protected areas including Bonobo (a great ape only in DR Congo), okapi (a ‘rainforest giraffe’ only in DR Congo), the Congo peacock,  an important population of forest elephants, and a new species of monkey discovered after the project began.

The project began exploration in 2007 on the platform of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Society (LWRF) before the Lomami National Park was created; The project’s mission is discovery, protection and conservation management between the three rivers (read more below).

WHERE we write…

…is from between three rivers, the Tshuapa, the Lomami, and the Lualaba, that spill-out from the most unpopulated, unknown tropical forest core, into the center of Africa.

Project area in DR Congo

We call the area TL2, from the three rivers coursing north.

Between the three rivers

The large forest tracks of TL2 remained unknown at the beginning of the 21st century; we were the first to explore them. Our maiden expedition up the Lomami by dugout was in 2007.

WHAT we do…

…started with…

1. Exploration

We surveyed more than 40,000 km2 by walking more than 5,500 km of compass directed inventory tracks through the forest. In this wilderness we found bonobos, okapi, elephant, and Congo peacock. We even discovered a monkey species new to science. At the same time we discovered how precarious it all was, an uncontrolled bushmeat trade fed insatiable distant markets. How can we protect a large forest before the animals are gone?

…and continues with…
2. Conservation, including:

  • monitoring _of bonobo, different monkeys, okapi and elephant populations and hunting pressure;
  • out-reach_ in all surrounding villages, town-centers, state capitals;
  • training _of local people and students to protect, monitor and promote conservation.

3. Discovery

By keeping a constant, inquiring and vigorous presence on the ground and by encouraging the visits of outside experts, discovery is a constant part of the TL2 project.

WHO does the work?

Terese and John started the project with a handful of experienced Congolese with whom they worked in other forests around the country.  More and more local people are trained and part of the teams. We welcome researchers, local and foreign.

Read more about the team members and our project reports.

WHY we are here…

Curiosity was the first reason, soon replaced by wonder at what we were finding and urgency as we learned how quickly it was being lost.

We need your HELP. Here is how.

A chronology

The first mission south, up the Lomami :
Our first sightings of bonobo, quickly showed how important the area was.
The further south we went, the rarer and more isolated the villages became.

It was not long before we discovered a monkey species, the Lesula, which received scientific confirmation as new to science, published in 2012.

The TL2 teams in the far north :
Although the people were wonderful it was clear that the north of TL2 had been hunted out.

Reaching the western border :
Even if they are scattered, the local people, who claim the land, must agree to conservation and conservation poorly thought out and poorly presented can turn locals against all conservation measures.

Recognizing the challenges :
Ashley’s first encounter with the lawless maimai colonel who later was arrested introduced him and the project to the challenges of TL2. We had not gone far before we realized that the hunting of bonobo for bushmeat was also a real problem. The problems are compounded by the greed of outsiders and the uncontrolled used of shotguns for hunting, even at night with bright head lamps.

Doing something about them :
We contacted top administrators in Kisangani, Opala, Kindu and Mbuji Mayi.   Slowly progress was made. But it became clear that the pressure must be maintained.

Local support for a national park was expressed and enforced through a series of traditional ceremonies organized by local leaders. This happened through five separate “tambikos” among the Bangengele, Balanga, Mbole, Mituku and Lengola peoples. This was followed by delimitation of Park borders in close collaboration with community leaders.

The Lomami National Park officially established :

The Decree #16/024 established the Lomami National Park (LNP) on 19 July 2016. The LNP is the eighth national park in DR Congo, and the first in more than 40 years.

Exploration continues :

As we and other researchers spend more and more time in the field, we keep discovering the wonders of the Park and its buffer zone.

One such discovery was that the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), an elusive forest species endemic to the DR Congo, lives between the Congo and Lomami Rivers, an area where it was previously thought not to occur.

We keep learning about another mysterious species, the Dryas monkey (Cercopithecus dryas), which is also a DRC endemic. It was thought to only occur in a single small area far from the LNP, but we have now found in four different widely separated areas in the park and its buffer zone.

Challenges continue… :

In order to ensure the protection of the new Park in the long-term, we need to keep working with the local communities to adapt various alternative subsistence activities to their needs.  At the same time monitoring-patrols must continue in the park and we must continue to facilitate law enforcement not only for the wildlife, but for the security of local people as well. Criminals often find haven in the remoteness of the TL2 region, where its rural poor have little or no contact with outside towns and no local outposts with government representatives or security forces. We keep working together with the communities.

Transition to another organization :

The TL2 Project grew fast. Even we were surprised how fast. Our original platform, the Lukuru Foundation is a very small organization. Led by Jo Thompson, executive director, Lukuru kept up with us very well! However, the time has come to move to an organization that can continue the work with the Lomami NP for the long-term. The transition to Frankfurt Zoological Society started in 2019. We will be always grateful for the first 12 years of support from the Lukuru Foundation and we are very excited about our future as FZS!

Join us as we work towards a goal to protect a newly established National Park for bonobos, okapis, pangolins, Congo peacocks, many primates, elephants, and people in the TL2 forest.