When Deni Béchard first learned of the last living bonobos—great apes that are, alongside the chimpanzee, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom—he was astonished. How could the world accept the extinction of this majestic species, along with the rainforest they call home?
As he looked more closely, Béchard discovered that one relatively small NGO, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), has done more to save bonobos and their natural habitat than any number of far larger organizations.
In contrast to many Western conservationists, BCI works closely with Congolese communities, addressing the underlying problems of poverty and unemployment, which lead to the hunting of bonobos. By creating jobs and building schools, they gradually change the conditions that lead to the eradication of bonobos.
The BCI's mission is "...to protect bonobos (Pan paniscus), preserve their tropical rainforest habitat, and empower local communities in the Congo Basin. By working with local Congolese people through cooperative conservation and community development programs, and by shaping national and international policy, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) is establishing new protected areas and leading efforts to safeguard bonobos wherever they are found."