In an isolated region of northeastern DRC, biologist Anne Laudisoit and her team at the University of Kisangani have discovered small relict forests with an unknown chimpanzee population and unsuspected but threatened biodiversity.
Once covered with lush forests, these isolated highlands of Ituri – already described by the first European explorers in the 19th century as one of the most inhospitable in the world – are still little explored to this day… Yet, it has become the research ground and the heart region of Belgian biologist Anne Laudisoit. Anne studies infectious diseases transmitted by animals in remote parts of the world. During a field mission in 2015, his friend and guide Otis revealed to her the existence of a new population of chimpanzees, never recorded to date in this region. It seemed so incredible to discover individuals of this endangered primate species in a tiny forest block – barely 1 square kilometres – in this remote region of the Albertine Rift! All it took was for Anne, sparked by her curiosity, to recruit a team of researchers from the University of Kisangani and the Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité (CSB) to explore the area. Since then, the team has been working to develop an inventory of the biodiversity of these small pockets of life threatened by deforestation, as part of breathtaking expeditions to one of the last terra incognita in the DRC.
The source of chimpanzees
The team is composed of scientists with complementary specialties: Welcome Ndjoku, primatologist, is in charge of counting chimpanzee nests and identifying signs of their activity. Botanists Justin Asimonyio and Joseph Omatoko are working on the analysis of plant species of the area, and to describe the diet of chimpanzees and define their role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration. Franck Masudi, herpetologist, hunts down reptiles and amphibians, with the hope of discovering new species. Claude Mande, chiropteologist, devotes himself to the study of bats, and by extension to the birds he releases after identification. As for entomologist Michel Komba, he is in charge, with Anne, of hunting insects and fly larvae in an attempt to study their role in the transmission of diseases that affect villagers.
This team benefits from the hospitality and great expertise of the local guides, led by the venerable Otis Kpanyogo and Pastor Jérôme Dz’Na, without whom these discoveries and expeditions in the field would never have been possible. Not to mention the porters, camp helpers, cooks and villagers who shared their observations and in-depth knowledge of the site and its forests. Together, a project was born to try to have these small forests classified as community-managed reserves in order to protect what is left of them and all the species that live there. A film “Mbudha, the source of chimpanzees” recounts in images and emotions the beginning of this wonderful adventure…
Flight Congo Airways or CAA to Bunia, the capital of Ituri, from Kinshasa, Kisangani or Goma. Possible access to Bunia by road from neighbouring Uganda (Entebbe).
Stay and enjoy
Bunia Executive Lodge
This charming establishment managed by Pacifique Kahasha Birindwa benefits from the proximity of the airport and all the necessary comfort and services in carefully decorated rooms. Two swimming pools, an office space, a conference room and a patio for a drink or a meal on the terrace complete the whole, a little away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Contact: +243 84 444 2474 / +243 97 644 4411 / +243 819 998 300
[email protected] – [email protected]
5, Rue Pacifique Q/Bankoko Bunia Airport / Ituri
Visit the site
On the road between Kisangani and Bunia, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (on UNESCO’s World Heritage List), managed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), is worth a visit for its magnificent landscapes within the nature reserve (although there are currently no okapis…). Discovery activities on the pygmies territory are also possible (honey harvesting, night hunting, bivouac in the forest, etc.).
RFO contact: [email protected] – [email protected] (ICCN)
The Okapi Conservation Project: https://www.okapiconservation.org/
Contact RFO : [email protected] – [email protected] (ICCN)
The Okapi Conservation Project : https://www.okapiconservation.org/
Merci à la Trust Merchant Bank – TMB pour son aide précieuse lors de la réalisation du film « Mbudha, la source des chimpanzés »