By David Wright, Canadian Ape Alliance
Representing the Canadian Ape Alliance in Africa, Nick January has made great progress over the past few years helping to map vast tracts of territory deep in the Congo Basin. Under the direction of renowned conservation scientists Drs. John and Terese Hart, Nick has been working with the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation to document and analyze a region of immense scientific importance and rich biodiversity. Lomami National Park (formerly called TL2 because of the three bordering rivers, Tshuapa, Lomami and Lualaba) encompasses one of the least travelled forest expanses in Central Africa.
Thanks to Nick’s geographic information systems (GIS) expertise and tireless fieldwork, the Canadian Ape Alliance has been acknowledged in the prestigious scholarly publication Science for its contribution in helping to create this invaluable map. Nick was also credited as a contributor to an article in African Primates, co-authored by John Hart.
The article that recently appeared in African Primates—an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal published by Simon Fraser University—reports a dramatic surge in the bushmeat trade throughout sections of the Bili region of the Democratic Republic of Congo over the past 15 years. Among other endangered species, adult chimpanzees are being illegally hunted not only for their meat, but also for their bones, which are used in various “traditional medicines.” Equally disturbing: orphaned infant chimps are now turning up in large numbers at local markets. They’re kept in abysmal conditions and, if they survive the trauma of captivity, are sold as pets. The article cites a recent boom in artisanal gold and diamond mining operations and an influx of otherwise unemployed hunters as the main reasons for the renewed, heightened trade in bushmeat.
In the face of such dire circumstances, the authors recommend taking concrete steps to prevent further widespread poaching of chimpanzees and other wildlife in this delicate ecosystem.