LuiKotale Research Site

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Central Africa > Democratic Republic Congo > Salonga National Park > LuiKotale Research Site



Species Trend Data Quality


In February 2002, a research site was established at the fringe of Salonga National Park (southern sector), just south of the Lokoro river (Hohmann and Fruth 2003). The camp-site, LuiKotale (2º45.610’S, 20 º 22.723’E), is 25 km away from the nearest village (Picture 1). A network of natural paths and standardized transects (>50km) gives access to a study area of about 150km2. Located close to a 225 km2 large, circular patch of a forest-savanna-mosaic, the study site comprises several different habitats including heterogeneous primary forest on terra firme, heterogeneous forest periodically inundated, homogenous forest, riverine forest permanently inundated, savannah permanently inundated (Libeke), dry savannah (Esobe) (Picture 2,3). Annual rainfall exceeds 2000mm (Hohmann et al 2006), and mean temperatures range from 20.7°C to 26.9°C. There is a long dry season from June toAugust and a short one around February. Wildlife is abundant and diverse within the study site and includes bonobos, elephants, leopards, red river hogs, honey badgers, sitatungas, bongos and 4 duiker species. The primate fauna comprises two species of mangabeys (Lophocebus aterrimus, Cercocebus crysogaster), two species of colobus (Piliocolobus tholloni, Colobus angolensis), and four species of guenons (Cercopithecus ascanius, C. wolfi, C. neglectus, Allenopithecus sp.). Ever since the onset of fieldwork in February 2002, shifting teams of Congolese research assistants, foreign students, and local field assistants are engaged in two long-term projects. One is funded mainly by the Max-Planck Institute and addresses various topics related to the socio-ecology and behavioral physiology of bonobos. For this, one community of bonobos was habituated to the presence of human researchers facilitating close range observations of known individuals (Picture 4). This community consists of around 35 individuals. The other project focuses on the bio-diversity of plants with particular focus on medicinal plants and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Picture 5). Both projects are linked in terms of their research interests and are engaged in collaborations with several Congolese research institutions such as the « Université de Kinshasa », the « Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature », the « Institut National de la Recherche Bio-Medicale », and the « Institut National des Etudes et des Recherches Agronomiques ».


Ape status

Year Estimated Number of Individuals Source Dates
2003 0.73 individuals/km2 Mohneke and Fruth 2008 2003

Table 1: Bonobo population estimates in LuiKotale, based on nest counts along standardized line transect.


Major Threats LuiKotale
Poaching yes (subsistence hunting, commercial hunting)
Disease positive evidence missing but can not be excluded
Agriculture not severe yet, however increasing
Logging There are plans to start logging within the buffer zone of SNP which

would most likely affect bonobos of the Salonga National Park Population

Mining no

Table 2: Current threats to bonobos in LuiKotale

Large scale bush-meat trade in Salonga National Park (SNP), south block, surrounding LuiKotale

Because of its enormous size, remoteness and lack of infrastructure, most of the fauna in the area around LuiKotale has, until recently, been little affected by human activity even though much of the park has been without proper management and protection. However, large species such as forest elephants and forest buffaloes were heavily hunted throughout the park from the late 70’s to the mid 90’s. In the end of the 90’s the elephant population was so severely diminished that many elephant hunters pretty much stopped hunting. After having taken over power in 1997, the new president, Laurent-Désirée Kabila, made a strong effort to confiscate all military weapons from the civilian community which resulted in a stop of commercial hunting by private individuals. Unfortunately, spread of military weapons was fostered by the subsequent “Second Congo War”, during which large numbers of military with large amounts of weapons and ammunition penetrated the park and its surroundings and took up large scale bush-meat hunting for both provisioning and cash-income. When the military eventually was removed from the area in 2003 as a result of the Sun City Agreement and the international peace process, weapons remained and were used by ex-military as well as civilians. Thus, hunting again changed from being an activity limited to people with good connections to the military to a general activity anybody could engage in without fear of consequences (Picture 6). Today, hunting with automatic weapons is no longer aimed on elephant hunting for their ivory but targets a broader number of species including bonobos, monkeys, and forest antelopes, with a considerable impact on population densities (Picture 7). As a consequence, in large parts of the park poaching has reached dimensions that several species, especially red colobus, most likely will go extinct within the next few years.

The current type of large scale bush-meat hunting meets little resistance from local communities. This is partly due to the long tradition of hunting, consumption, and trade of bush meat, and partly to fear from well armed poachers. Even with limited transport facilities, bush meat is merchandized and contributes to the local economy, much more however to the regional economy being one of the rare sources of cash income.

Conservation activities

Conservation actions LuiKotale
Law Enforcement yes, by materially and logistically supporting

ICCN Parc Guards and local communities

technical support to ICCN yes
Long-term Research yes
Permanent Monitoring Program yes, for study community
School education yes
Public Awareness Campaign yes
Ecotourism no

Table 3: Conservation activities in LuiKotale

Anti-poaching efforts

Since May 2006 the LuiKotale Bonobo Project has conducted several anti-poaching patrols in order to discourage hunting within and outside the reserarch site. In order to follow the approach of community participation, villagers were involved in anti-poaching patrols resulting in the displacement of several groups of poachers and removal of large numbers of snares from the periphery of the study site and adjacent. In order to link the local knowledge and traditional ownership of the forests with the Congolese Wildlife Authority with the official power of law enforcement, another approach aimed at patrols that were jointly conducted by park guards from the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and by people from the local villages (Picture 8). Again several groups of poachers were displaced, large quantities of bush meat were confiscated, and poacher camps were destroyed. Since 2010, anti-poaching patrols are conducted once per month by a group of young people of local villages in collaboration with the LuiKotale Bonobo Project.

Education efforts

Ever since its start, field work is complemented with conservation oriented education and local subsistence programs. Major activities included the construction of a school building, payment of teachers and training of university students (Picture 9). Realizing the potential impact of environmental education on conservation and species protection, the LuiKotale Bonobo Project is currently expanding its efforts by launching a Salonga Education Initiative.


In 2002 a landscape analysis was carried out in order to assess the Salonga National Park landcover and use. In 2003 a survey was conducted in the surrounding of LuiKotale and the estimated bonobo density was around 0.73 individuals/km2 (Mohneke and Fruth 2008). In 2002- 2007 a survey of traditional use of the local flora (>1200 questionnaires in 10 villages) was carried out to develop methods for their sustainable use.



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