132: Sean Willmore, Thin Green Line, & Candor Bourne, Friends of Bonobos
Guest Name(s): Sean Willmore, Candor Bourne
Listen in to a very unique show, with Candor Bourne, representing the Congo, or the “left lung of the earth”; Director or Conservation Partnerships at Friends of Bonobos (an endangered great ape found only in the Congo). She is joined by Sean Willmore, representing the “right lung of the earth”, the Founder and Director The Thin Green Line Foundation and works with the park rangers who courageously fight to protect to the Amazonian rainforest.
Episode Audio Links:
Welcome to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got two great guests on the show today: Candor Bourne, director of conflict conservation partnerships with Friends of Bonobos, and we’ve got Sean Willmore from the Thin Green Line Foundation. Welcome Candor and Sean to the program. Candor, your organization is my understanding is working in the Congo or Congo, saving the Bonobos. Tell us a little bit about the work that you’re doing and how you came to that organization.
Great. Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. And yeah, so our mission is protecting bonobos and their rainforest home. So many people don’t know what the bonobos are. They are one of the great apes. And they’re actually our closest genetic relatives. So we share 98.7% of our human DNA with the bonobo species. And so, there’s lots I could say about bonobos. One particularly interesting thing about bonobos is that they are actually matriarchal. They’ve made as a primate. They’ve maintained their matriarchal social structure.
A few fun and relevant things about that that will tie into the big picture of the carbon conversation or the climate conversation and where we’ve landed as a species is that the bonobos are actually, you know, as matriarch as a matriarchal culture. They are collaborative, peacefully, and they like to share even outside of their immediate groups. Another fun fact about the novos is that as a species, they are the only primate that doesn’t tolerate coercive sex. We could talk more about that. They are dramatically understudied, as compared to the more aggressive chimpanzees.
So we feel like I’ll talk more about the Congo Basin where they’re from. But as a species, as closely related as we are, there’s a lot that we have to learn from them about our human potential. So bonobos are endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo, meaning that they’re native, and they only exist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC, as a country, makes up 60% of the entire Congo Basin rainforest. There are six countries included in the Congo Basin rainforest, but 60% of it exists in the country of the DRC. And so, yeah, I may have strayed from the fullness of your question. But there’s a lot that we can talk about relevant to the climate conversation about the Congo Basin rainforest. Again, being the place that the bonobos live.
Well, I’ve often said that one of the problems that exists in our society overall is that we’ve had such a patriarchal society that it’s kind of focused on many things like war, and creating more and more and more in our economy that we probably be well served to have a bit more balance in having women lead. Essentially a revolution towards equality throughout the world, which would probably balance our world out to be a more loving, caring, empathetic place versus obviously the wars that we’re seeing sparked all over the planet are quite destructive and probably come from a more male dominated positions and, and ways of dealing with conflict.
But that that may be a story for another day. But you know, tell us more about how this shows up in the bonobo shows and and how their society works and and why it’s so important to preserve the Congo base and rainforest for the environment.
Great, yeah. So it’s interesting because exactly all of the things that you just said, are really the areas of focus for you know, bring really being able to understand the importance of what bonobos have to teach us at in terms of really our potential as a species. So I think that it’s often thought that the patriarchal model, which is kind of the entitled, exploitation model is inevitable. And bonobos are really here to show us that it’s not inevitable, actually, that a cooperation model, a big picture thinking model where we are concerned with the good of all. So not just for our human species, but for all species. So in that way, as it you know, our model of conservation is a community based model.
We have 100, currently about 120,000 acres of protected rainforest in the heart of the Congo Basin rainforest. It’s, that’s established already, and we’re in the process of expanding to probably over 200,000 acres. The Congo rate, the Congo Basin rainforest, is recognized as one of the, you know, most biodiverse regions of the world.
So protection of, of bonobos in the rainforest, serves also as preservation broad biodiversity preservation. And also, carbon sequestration. Of course, the Congo Basin rainforest is sometimes referred to as the second lung of the earth. Of course, it’s second in size to the Amazon rainforest, but it’s actually has the highest level of carbon sequestration of all forests in the world. And that’s largely due to actually the peat bogs. So that sort of takes us into a whole nother area. And I can talk a little bit about that, if that would.
Well, let’s let’s talk about what are the threats to the Congo Basin, rainforest, and maybe things that are being done to protect it? And what can the listeners do to kind of engage and be a part of the solution?
Great. So currently, the biggest threats to the Congo rainforest are really industrial plantations. So like mono crop, agriculture, palm oil, rubber, and sugar. Also, large, large scale commercial logging. Yeah, so that’s the biggest threat. Of course, the biggest threat to bonobos is humans. So it is loss of habitat, but also the illegal bushmeat trade.
But in terms of the rainforest, I would say, you know, and what people can do, I think recognizing the importance of preservation of existing forests. So tree planting has become sort of a bit trendy. And it is important, of course, planting trees all over the world is incredibly important. Reforestation is is a is an important aspect to focus on.
But in terms of sort of bang for your buck, if you will, or you know, impact, focusing on preserving existing forests, and really supporting small local initiatives that are doing community based conservation, like we’re doing is extremely important. We’ve seen a lot about the damage that can be done with traditional models of conservation that cut people out of the equation. Our model is really working directly in partnership with the local communities that have for generations had land management rights to the forest.
And we’re working with them to formalize those rights and formalize the protected area. So it’s really a collaborative process, as opposed to a top down model of conservation. So you know, we exist as a small nonprofit, our implementing partner in the DRC is a much larger team. They’re directly, you know, boots on the ground involved at the project level.
And I think the more that people get involved, of course, nonprofits survive by support from the broader community, both individuals and and business level support. So that’s I would say the best way for people to get involved is to, to seek out projects that are directly working with the people in the regions.
That sounds like a great idea. Now, Sean, you work with the Thin Green Line Foundation. Tell us a little bit about your work. And how did you come to working with the Thin Green Line Foundation?
Yeah, thanks. Thanks, Matt. That’s probably a good segue when we talking about candidates talking about boots on the ground. So as a park ranger in Australia, which is just behind my right shoulder there, and I met Rangers from all over the world who told me their stories showed me their machete wounds, their bullet holes, told me amazing, tragic stories, but also amazing, inspiring stories. One thing led to another and I started up the charity for the, for the International Ranger Federation called the Thin Green Line Foundation.
And essentially all of our work is focused around supporting the men and women who are Rangers on the ground all over the world, including in DRC. So I really look forward to talking to Kando, after this meeting, about how we might cooperate together to support, you know, their ranges, in that in that region. In fact, DRC has the highest rate of range of deaths besides India. In the world, we lost last year over 150 Rangers in the line of duty.
And so primarily Thin Green Line was set up to support the families and children of rangers killed, as in the line of duty, usually by militia poachers, illegal activities, sometimes accidents, and sometimes the animals themselves can cause ranges, the loss of life, but there was no workers compensation as we might have in some of our western world.
For these families, the families were left destitute, children kicked out of school, forced to work from from very young ages. And you’re basically put onto the scrap heap of humanity, because all because their loved one was a range of protecting wildlife that we all want them to protect. So you know, essentially, that’s not good enough. And so as a range of myself connecting to ranges around the world, that’s that’s what I started thing going on foundation has been my mission for the last 20 years is to get behind not just those families.
So yes, that’s a one of our four pillars is the Fallen Ranger Fund. But then to prevent those deaths in the first place by training ranges adequately, which is happening right now in the Amazon with my solo single over. We might speak to him another day, for my solos right in there teaching indigenous rangers and other rangers how to protect their rainforest area. We do trainings in Africa as well through a program called Lead Ranger, which actually trains Local rangers to be trainers themselves leaving leaving a legacy of, of trainers in in situ to maintain that training. So not a tick box approach but a real change maker.
Well, Sean, I hate to break into your, you know what you’re saying. But we’ll be right back after the break here. You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matt, your host, I’ve got Sean Willmore of the Thin Green Line foundation and Candor Bourne, director of conservation and partnerships at the Friends of Bonobos. We’ll be right back in just one minute.
And you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Sean Willmore of the Thin Green Line foundation as well as Candor Bourne, who’s with Friends of Bonobos. And, Sean, we were just talking to you and you were telling us a bit about what the Thin Green Line Foundation does to protect Rangers all over the world? And if you can, you know, let us know. I apologize. I cut you off kind of mid sentence there.
No dramas at all, Matt. Yeah, look, I was just mentioning the four pillars of our work. One of them I mentioned in depth, there was the Fallen range of funds, so supporting the families and children of rangers deceased in line of duty. But we also want to prevent those deaths. So lead Rangers one one of those where we train rangers to become trainers have their own fellow rangers and leave that in situ. And then there’s the essential equipment that Rangers need everything from boots, mosquito nets, first aid kits, water filtration, even tents.
Many Rangers are out on patrol for up to a month at a time. And they don’t even have the basic equipment to do it. So there’s that part and then there’s connecting rangers to each other and to the community and to the world. So the there’s much more support for rangers and to boost the morale of rangers. It’s a very difficult job and you know, candled know well from the DRC in the Congo base and that, you know, it’s they can spend up to month out there, maybe see their families for a day or two a month, if they’re lucky.
Sometimes the travel home is too hard to get home in time. So they might get home, see the families once or twice a year. We’ve had Rangers come home and you know, the young children don’t recognize them, because they’ve been in the field for so long. So everything we do is about supporting the men and women in the frontlines of conservation around the world.
So that they can actually then protect the forests, like the Congo, like the Amazon, but also the deserts, the mountains, the lakes, everything on the frontlines of conservation is, is what we do with rangers and we partner with people like Canada to say, okay, how can we get together?
And that’s a really important part of conservation, too. Is that this collaborative piece. Well, it’s not the elbows out, like maybe some bigger players do. It’s actually, you know, arms around each other and say, how do we make this work together? And that collaborative space, maybe taking a leaf from the bonobos about working together and not fighting?
Well, tell us tell us a little bit about the state of rangers around the world, particularly in the Amazon, and the Congo. And, and in terms of how quickly are we expanding the ranks of the Rangers that protect the forest? Because as Candor was saying, many of these areas are being destroyed by poachers and the like.
Yeah, well, and usually, I’ll have some good news to report that in the Amazon, where our partner Marcelo is doing some training, the government has agreed to employ more Rangers in that in that region of the Amazon to support nature’s protection there, that’s not usually the case. We we estimate that maybe around 500,000 Rangers in the world, it’s estimated that needs to be much, much more significant, probably around about the 3 million Rangers, so we’re well and truly under, under par.
But then you’ve got to look at the existing Rangers, like we’re candles working in Congo. And she’ll tell you probably the same that many of the ranges don’t have the recent the existing ranges, the ones we’re working on right now don’t have the resources to do their job. So that’s, that’s a key focus of Thin Green Line and our partners is to make sure that the range is existing, have those key resources to get the job done. They have the key trains to get the job done. And, you know, the threats to Rangers is just off the charts. I mean, you’ve got illegal mining, you’ve got illegal forestry.
You’ve even got sometimes legal activities that threatened Rangers that are sanctioned by, you know, maybe nefarious policies or politicians sometimes that in some corrupted areas, maybe part of the illegal activities, or changing the laws that disenfranchise and we saw in Brazil, in recent history, that was a big, big issue with the ex president, really turning his back on indigenous people and ranges within the Amazon and many, many suffered and a lot of Chase, especially during the COVID times passed away.
With COVID, but deep in the Amazon, not just Rangers, but conservation workers many actually take it out purposely in hits, because they’re in the way of, of money making illegal activities of various corporations or individuals, or militia. So Rangers Rangers are really up against it, and they do need our worldwide support to make sure that they can get the job done. It’s not an easy job, but they’re passionate about it.
Well tell us Candor, in terms of the problems in the Congo, we know that there’s wars, there have been a lot of wars fought in the area kind of civil wars. You hear stories about illegal mining and shoulder and mining like cobalt, and things of that nature? I would imagine issues with Rangers there and whether or not they’re reasonably funded and or whether or not, you know, there, you have boots on the ground sufficient to protect these wild areas?
Yeah, thank you. So I would say in general, the Democratic Republic of Congo is unfortunately a prime example of extreme inequity. So as you know, resource rich, if you will, biodiversity rich, carbon rich, all of the things that we ought to be really valuing. Unfortunately, they are they also have a history of just absolute extreme exploitation. And that continues in all kinds of ways. A lot of the conflict that you hear about in the mining that is happening is all in the eastern part of the country, to massive country, the work that we’re doing in the area that we’re focusing on is in Ecuador Province, which is in the north western region of the country.
So while there is still tremendous inequity there, and extreme poverty, and you know, really you feel a kind of a generational trauma of the extreme colonization that happened there, it still is, it’s really palpable. You know, right now, we are, you know, that that area is not as, as the the conflict that you that, you know, makes its way into the news is not as prevalent in terms of direct crisis. But I would say that, yes, across the board, you know, in terms of projects and conservation projects, there’s really a broad range.
And because there just really isn’t internal infrastructure in terms of the government supporting protected areas, or conservation initiatives, it’s really up to, to the projects. And I think, you know, I love what you say, Sean, and the work you’re doing with the Rangers, we, so Rangers is kind of a broad term, we, we refer to our team, as forest guards, really, it’s the same thing. And, and I would say that, you know, there’s a broad range of training and expertise, and part of what we do a lot of focus on is to make sure that their approach is really community based. Because I really appreciate all of what you’re highlighting about the needs of rangers.
Unfortunately, there’s also some bad reputation of things that have been done in the name of conservation, you know, by way of, of rangers and guards and all of that. So, you know, we work really hard to mitigate that reputation and to ensure that our team is working in a real collaborative way with the local communities and the areas that we have the protected area.
So in terms of government support, whether it’s from the Democratic Congo, or, or whether it’s from the United States or the EU, are our other governments and other organizations really taking effective action in the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect this rainforest area, and this Congo Basin, rain forest, and what can we do to sound the alarms to get our governmental organizations more engaged?
Yeah, so certainly, I would say that, that the Congo Basin and has really come onto the radar more dramatically in the last few years. However, unfortunately, some of the attention is coming in the form of opportunity grabs, if you will. So carbon schemes and those kinds of things aren’t necessarily having the interests of the local communities in mind. So really, the more that we can get out the message of the importance of community based conservation, in all rain forest areas, I think that’s a relevant theme.
And definitely in the, in the DRC. And making sure that we, again, sort of the matriarchal, big picture approach understands that humans are actually part of the ecosystem, they’re not separate from, and so they need to be considered part of the conservation approach. So I think bringing that awareness and moving away from Yeah, sort of top down approaches that are good for some of the bigger NGOs and and, you know, receive that kind of government support. But the we really need to make sure that the benefits go to the local communities.
Let me ask you a question. This carbon schemes that you talked about what what do you what are you referring to?
So carbon schemes where they’re sore. So the most popularized carbon scheme is is the carbon exchange market. So where industry can purchase carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint?
Right, now,okay, well, you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Candor Bourne with Friends of Bonobos on the show as well as Sean Willmore, from the Thin Green Line foundation. And we’ll be right back in just one minute to talk to both of them about the great work they’re doing in the Congo, as well as in the Amazon.
And you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Sean Willmore, of Thin Green Line foundation, and Candor Bourne of Friends of Bonobos on the show, and Sean back to you as far as the work that you’re doing with the Rangers in the Amazon in particular and the community based rangers, and and how that can make a difference in protecting these, these ecosystems. Tell us a little bit about that.
Yeah. And coming back out from the Amazon just more broadly, Candor mentioned community ranges, or eco guards has many names for ranges around the world. In parts of Latin America, they’re called function areas. So it’s about the role of the Ranger which is protecting nature or eco guard or functionary as they’re all protecting nature. And it’s really interesting that in the Amazon to has is around the world, the fastest growing sector for Ranger employment. A really good thing is community Rangers, so they come from the communities.
Conservation creates employment for those Rangers. In some parts of Africa, we see that the range of salary supports up to 27 people in their community with education and food, and all sorts of positive outcomes from conservation. Obviously, then the standing of rangers is elevated, even through the lead Ranger program where we train Rangers in all sorts of skills, but including critical bleak control. So emergency first aid, the Rangers apply that to local community members and half lives are saved Africa through this lead Ranger have been community.
And so the Ranger elevates in the standing of the community, then you get more cooperation from the community with these community Rangers. And it’s the same for the Amazon, the indigenous Amazonian ranges, they’re really underfunded, under resourced. They want support. So from a travel perspective, we must always been working with the Shingo, and that took a monkey in the Amazon. But other areas too. And the request of the tribal elders is to get more support for an indigenous Ranger type program.
And really, to be truthful about it. I mean, indigenous people, whether it be where I am in Australia, the oldest living culture in the world, the Amazon, the Congo, many tribal people have been in a way of looking after nature in through through tribal practices. So they have deep connection to landscapes to the areas they live in, because they rely on it for their water for their food, for their sustenance. And so over millennia, have evolved techniques and cultures and practices that actually symbiotic with the environment. Not always perfect.
So let’s not pretend that’s the case. But but a lot better than what we’re seeing with with the Western approach to say resource, what we call resource based areas like Congo and Amazon, where it’s just extraction rather than living with the environment. So definitely, that’s the case in the Amazon. It’s definitely the case from our work in in parts of Africa, including Congo, but is that working with community ranges, to actually increase that protection, and combine like a what we call a two way approach of kind of modern rendering, but combined with tribal techniques and skills like indigenous people, tribal people make and community people make the best trackers, because that’s what they do for their lives.
Even ex-poachers make great Rangers. Because they know the skills, they know the tricks, and they know how to catch other purchases. So yeah, there’s community Rangers is the fastest growing sector, as I mentioned, along with women Rangers coming into the space as to really great areas of, of increased activity in the range of sector.
Well, that’s great to hear. And it makes sense that essentially community development is can be done with resource protection and that these communities would thrive if we gave them the tools to thrive, which are to protect the greatest resources that they have, which are their natural, the natural homes and habitat that that they’ve lived in for, as you said, Millennium.
And so what are the things that are being done as far as the Western world kind of maybe contributing back to these spaces in the Amazon, to to help protect areas that they’ve in many ways create an extraction economy that’s worked against protection?
Yeah, look, I suppose the backup what Candor said the most directly, the most effective way that I see things changing or being protected is through small, medium sized NGOs, like us working with local people on the ground to get the job done. There’s big world policies that happen big world events, under various banners. And they’re great for signaling intent, and many people sign off on many, many things to say this is our intent. But intent sitting in a document signed by officials isn’t actually action on the ground.
So where that rubber hits the road, is with people like Canada and, and her Friends of Bonobos and Thin Green Line Foundation. And organizations like ours that actually get to work with the people. And that’s a really important part of conservation is we think of, as cattlemen be mentioned, before we are an animal, we are part of nature, but where we support the people in that nature interface, the ranges or the communities, that’s where the biggest impacts happening.
And that’s the inaction of all of these wishes at the high end of international governance, where people sign off on these treaties and all sorts of things. It’s where we support those direct actions on the ground. That’s where we have the impact, the boots for Rangers, the the equipment, the training, the employment for local community, and conservation, the employment of women in conservation in these areas.
These are all really important direct measures. And so you can read a lot of documents that people have signed, that have never been acted, or you can get behind organizations actually doing the hard work on the ground like, like think remind low Friends of Bonobos and this, they are there. So I think if people want to be engaged, and actually make a difference, a real difference, get behind those organizations, and get behind the local communities.
Sean, I’m a big proponent of getting behind organizations that are of modest size, and you really feel connection, as somebody who volunteers and gives to smaller organizations I’ve had the experience of watching them grow and seeing the work they do firsthand, is heartwarming. One of the ways that we got in touch with both of your organization’s is through 1% for the Planet, and, and the great work that they’ve done in terms of raising awareness and connecting to thousands of organizations, like the two that you two are a part of and and watching them grow and thrive.
So Candor, tell us tell us about the work that you’re doing, which will protect the Congo Basin and the rainforest there, and what are the signs of hope that you see sprouting there?
Yeah, thank you. And thank you for mentioning 1%. Of course, it’s 1%, for the Planet that brought all of us together, as you mentioned, and it’s a great model for businesses to really get behind these kinds of initiatives. And that is one of the things that gives me hope is more and more people realizing that, you know, one person can’t do it all. But it’s through these networks, and these ways that we can connect with each other.
And, you know, a lot of people are really interested in getting very involved locally, which is really important. But one of the things that that we think is really important, and that I am encouraged by seeing more and more, you know, both individuals, but also business initiatives in the West that have access to the kind of financial power that that just doesn’t exist everywhere, really getting behind initiatives in global hotspots, and in areas of the world that are, you know, both biodiversity hotspots, but also carbon sinks.
You know, for us, we are both of those. So I didn’t get to talk more about about the peat bogs, but it is one of the things that makes the Congo Basin so important. And it’s really only very recently recognized how important that is. But the peat covers only 4% of the whole Congo Basin. But it stores the same amount of carbon below ground as is stored above ground in the rest of the 96%. So it’s an incredibly vulnerable area that’s relevant to all of us all over the planet. supporting initiatives like us that again, we’re you know, on the ground, very community based and our whole reserve is in that area where the carbon the peat bogs are concentrated.
So you know, it both gives me hope to be involved with these kinds of initiatives with businesses and individuals that really take a stand. And sometimes the most powerful way to take a stand is with your wallet really. And sharing wealth being bonobo you know, cooperating working together sharing and making sure that we are keeping our sights on the good of the hole?
Yeah, well, that’s a that’s a very uplifting message. And I think with the hope that I see there is that, hey, we haven’t destroyed everything yet. We’ve we still have some incredible nature out there. And it’s not too late. So long as we get involved, we get engaged and really make the effort to to help places that unfortunately, we’ve in the past extracted lots of wealth from but haven’t contributed as much to.
So this is a chance for us to kind of give back to places that have been places where a lot of taking has occurred and not enough giving. So maybe you could tell us a little bit more and just the minute we have less than this segment regarding the peatlands in, in the Congo.
Yeah. So again, as I mentioned, they cover just 4% of the whole Congo Basin, which is partly why they were just so recently recognize, but but store as much carbon as the entire tree cover in the rest of the 96%. They’re basically swamp lands, and they’re decomposed plant material, and they store the carbon that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere, they store it beneath the ground.
So it’s, of course, the you think of swamps, not necessarily as being tree covered, but they are it is a swamp forest. And so there are and what’s important is to keep the trees planted, not to deforest the areas where the peat bogs exist in order to keep that carbon underground. So protecting those areas is of utmost significance to the entire planet.
Now, what efforts are being taken to protect those, and what efforts are being taken to probably endanger those?
Yeah, so any development that happens in the areas where the peat swamps the peatlands exist, so like we talked about before, deforestation, whether it’s for the purpose of logging or for the purpose of monocrop, agriculture, even just putting in the roads, for those initiatives, is incredibly risky. And so, again, the smaller base protective measures, you know, we’ve established a provincial level protected area, which is basically like, like we would have a state park in this country, that that protects that whole area and makes it you know, inaccessible for development and for initiatives like agricultural project, projects, and that kind of thing.
Well, that’s great to hear. You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Candor Bourne with the Friends of Bonobos, as well as Sean Willmore, with the Thin Green Line foundation. We’ll be right back in just one minute.
You’re listening to A Climate Change and I’m back with Candor Bourne and Sean Willmore. Candor, I’m gonna ask you the question first, which is, if you were naming people to the Mount Rushmore of climate activists, who are the four or so people that inspire you the most doing the work that you do?
Oh, gosh that’s a big question. And I’m, I’m gonna say I’m, I’m, well, I’m gonna stumble and take two. Can we take two on that one? So you’re saying climate activists? I needed a heads up on that question.
Well, I could, it could be a broader than that.
Yeah, so I’m just so to answer the question of who I would nominate I, we’d like to nominate the nameless people, you know, the local indigenous people that often don’t get the recognition that the leaders get. There are so many people doing such important work on the ground, protecting the environment, understanding that we are part of nature, that there’s another way to approach this beautiful and precious planet that we belong to. And that would never want their faces to be carved into a rock, but just want to be respected, and to have their views really integrated into the broader culture. So that that would be my nomination.
Oh, that’s a beautiful one. Thank you for that. And, Sean, I’m gonna throw it to you to to have you tell us whom who are climate activists that are inspiring you?
Yeah, well, I really love candles answer because mine would be similar as the people that wouldn’t ask for their faces to be recognized, but they would. And dessert would like and deserve the respect. And for me, obviously, that’s going to be Rangers around the world.
The silent people doing the work on the ground, the action on the ground, risking their lives. And representative of that would be people like you my friend, John Mocambo, who was a ranger protecting gorillas and he’s been shot and shot I hadn’t had Rangers killed next to him, it’d be Samuel Lowe, Ira, who’s passed away in Uganda and kidepo in the north of there. It’d be my friend, Marcelo, cigar lover who’s given his life to living in the Amazon and working with indigenous community Rangers.
And probably one that’s poignant right now is recognition of rangers and their sacrifices. Anton was in both from South Africa who was an elite, anti poaching, Rhino Ranger, basically. And the criminal syndicates actually did a hit on him at his home, while he’s at home with his family and took him out, killed him at his home. And this is this is the silent thing that happens in our world for rangers and people that care about conservation is that they undergo this kind of threat.
And sometimes that threat is carried out. So for all of those Rangers that lose their lives, or all of those rangers have dedicated their lives for all of those communities, then there’d be some representatives faces that you could put up on the Mount Rushmore of climate activation and nature protection that would represent many, many people that do that.
Well, beautiful answers both of you. I really like the the name was and not necessarily faceless, folks that are just not seeking credit or glory, but are just doing the work and not expecting to get shouted their name shouted from the rooftops, but they’re just doing the work. And that, I guess, a call to action for all of us, and certainly to myself to say, hey, let’s just go out there and do the work. Tell us a little bit to Sean, as far as stories of success and hope that you’ve seen and and what what keeps you going?
Yeah, great question that because it is in this field, as candle no two it is trying and that is easy to want to give up. I mean, I’ve been there a number of times we go is this possible? Why should we keep going? My inspiration comes from those Rangers in the field that they’ve got a much tougher than I do. And I’ve been lucky enough to visit Ranger zone in 80 countries around the world and be on the ground with them in those places.
And they don’t do anything but inspire me every time I’m with them the the dedication they have and success stories from those ranges. The mountain gorillas in the virungas area which borders DRC, Uganda, Rwanda. When I first came into this kind of sphere of work internationally with Rangers, I think there was about 400 to 500 Gorillas left in the wild mountain gorillas left in the world today because of the dedication of rangers, but community and also gotta give credit to government policy. But an NGO is working all together this collaborative space.
I think there’s now over 1,500 mountain gorillas in the wild in the world. Now they’re sacrificing their ranges have given their lives to it, whilst their lives to that protection. The community have dedicated areas to it. But where that interface with community and conservation has happened. We’ve seen success with the mountain gorillas and that’s true of many other places where we’ve been able to do our work in Kenya in Africa to poaching in some areas has gone down to zero where rangers have had that training and they’ve community engagement, 300 Rangers of big Life Foundation one of our partners, they have over 300 meso Rangers from the local community.
They’re involved in education programs for the children with conservation and normal education. They have predator compensation programs. If a lion takes someone’s cattle, they’re compensated so that that real community Ranger interface is really an amazing success story of conservation and the more we get behind that, I think more successful see on the planet so there is hope I talked about this now with tingles down my spine thinking of those positive examples, and I’m about to go to Mongolia, saying to hang out with Mongolian rangers who give their all in Mongolia. So while there’s some inspiring people out there, we just got to get behind him.
That sounds great. And that is certainly inspirational to me to hear the success stories of mountain gorillas and in Kenya reducing poaching to zero is is amazing work.
So Candor, tell us a little bit about the stories of success and hope that you have in working with the bonobo son in the Congo.
Yeah, so I’ll share an example. One of so last year we had our second successful reintroduction of a group of bonobos that was rehabilitated at the bonobo sanctuary called Lola ya bonobo and they were reintroduced back into the wild. So we didn’t talk about this before but the two main avenues of our programs is is the sanctuary Lola ya bonobo where bonobos that have been rescued from the bushmeat trade are brought to be rehabilitated and cared for.
And, and then with the with the hope and goal of reintroducing them back into the wild. So the first reintroduction happened in 2009. And it was not until last year, that the second successful reintroduction happened. So this group of about 12 and oboes, was transported 8000 kilometers back into the heart of the rainforest. And the goal there is both, you know, to sort of doing the right thing for these bonobos that have been taken out of their environment for bad reasons, and now being able to release them back into the wild.
And, you know, another part of that goal is to increase the in situ population. So already from the two groups, about 10. Bonobos have been born into the wild. And we’re gearing up to do a third reintroduction early next year. So the goal long term will be to do reintroductions every couple of years, until hopefully, there’s no more poaching and no more rescues. And it’s, you know, the the sanctuary will not be needed anymore.
So what’s the status of the bonobo population? And is it under threat?
Yes, it’s actually that’s not a hopeful topic. Unfortunately, bonobos are very highly endangered. The populations were thought to be around 100,000, back in 19, in back in the 80s. It’s down to what’s thought to be somewhere around 15,000. Now, so with that trajectory, unless severe measures are taken, they’re scheduled to exit the planet within three generations. And, again, that’s, you know, one of the highly motivating factors of our work to keep them here on the planet. And to make sure those in-situ numbers increase rather than continuing to decrease have
Have you seen the the rate of decrease drop or is the is the population continuing to drop as we speak?
Yeah. So, again, one of the things that’s hardest about bonobo conservation is that the areas where the bonobo goes live naturally is incredibly dense swamp forest, as we talked about, and the DRC is incredibly under resourced. So getting good, clear numbers and reports is really challenging. So we don’t we can’t say for sure that there have been that the numbers are increasing. And, you know, yeah, I don’t really have anything conclusive to say on that and unfortunately.
Well, Candor. It’s been great having you and Sean on the program. Candor, tell us a little bit as to where we can find your organization to partner and people can connect with you guys.
Great. So our website is friendsofbonobo.org. I’ll say it again, friendsofbonobos.org. And we’re also on LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram and all these good things.
Okay, everybody go out and follow friends of bonobo.org.
Sean, tell us a little bit about where our audience can find you.
Yeah, similarly online or thingreenline.org.au. The ”au” being from Australia, but thingreenline.org.au is the best, and yeah, all the socials. Have things popping up there as well.
Well, I think it’s extraordinarily important for all of us to be involved to be engaged, connect to these great organizations, the thingreenline.org.au as well as the friendsofbonobo.org. Go out there. Donate to these great organizations, stay active, stay involved because they’re doing incredible work.
And all of us have a part in it so we can protect this amazing, these forests and the incredible nature that lives within them by doing our part, and staying active, staying involved.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
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