When I first saw the large antenna looming above the roof of the Max Planck Institute, I just took it for another of the house’s infrastructural peculiarities, alongside with the sauna, the climbing wall, the choir, and a considerable number of companionable canines.
But in fact it is a lot more than that. Because this radio antenna in Leipzig is the only direct link to this one, some 8000 kilometers south:
It is located at the MPI’s Bonobo study site in LuiKotale, near Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
From here, Matthis Petit and Rodolphe Violleau, two young biologists from France, will send their dispatches over the coming weeks and months.
They arrived in the area a few days ago from Kinshasa, where they had stocked up on equipment to build their camp: storage bins and dishes, mosquito nets, washing buckets and food: rice, beans, various cans, milk powder, sugar, salt.
Their task is to help find out whether the area near the MPI’s field station, just outside the national park, is a suitable site for eco tourism. There are Bonobos there, but nobody knows how many, and what other wildlife could be seen.
The projected eco camp is one step in a larger plan to protect the Bonobo populations in the Congo basin. If the Bonobos become valuable economically, so the idea, people will be more interested in assuring their survival.
To establish and eco camp in the Congolese rainforest is a long and complicated process. The first assessments are done, but now, with Matthis and Rodolphe, begins the crucial phase. They will walk transects, seek out bonobo sleeping nests and other traces, and hopefully see some apes. It is not an easy task. They have support from locals and from the research camp in LuiKotale, of course, but still, the new site is completely uncharted and a lot can happen on the way.
UPDATE: All posts from the "Bonobo radio" will be collected here.