National Geographic
Menu

“Secret Congo”: Camera Traps Reveal A Dark Forest Refuge…

We can only imagine what these vast tropical forests looked like 300 years ago when wildlife numbers were at the maximum that the ecological balance could support, a lush green paradise filled with the abundance of life… Now we have the “African silence”… The direct result of hundreds of years of exploitation by foreign powers, misguided aid packages, and the selfish meddling of developed countries. The first European, Arab and Asian colonists and explorers found an untouched wilderness inhabited by stable, proud black peoples that had lived in harmony with the African wilderness for more than 50,000 years. Their great work, the great monuments to these African peoples and cultures are the vast wildernesses that remain on the continent, the Kavango, Congo, Zambezi, Serengeti, Sudd, and Sahara. Africa still has natural resources and can look forward to centuries of prosperity unless world powers steal these resources, whether by treaty or war, from us. African governments are learning one, inalienable fact: Africa has what the world desperately needs and we do not need anything from them. Africa is rising and should hail our world-class wilderness areas as national treasures that need to be protected…

 

The battle for the survival of the forest elephant will be won or lost in Gabon. NGS photo by Michael Nichols.

The battle for the survival of the forest elephant will be won or lost in Gabon. NGS photo by Michael Nichols.

A forest elephant in Gabon. Loxodonta africana cyclotis is the elusive smaller cousin of  the more familiar savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana). Both species—forest elephants and African elephants—are classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union's Red List. NGS photo by Michael Nichols.

A forest elephant in Gabon. Loxodonta africana cyclotis is the elusive smaller cousin of the more familiar savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana). Both species—forest elephants and African elephants—are classified as endangered on the World Conservation Union’s Red List. NGS photo by Michael Nichols.

African grey parrots are among the most populous pets on earth with millions upon millions removed from the wild to supply "bird mills" that breed these parrots for the pet trade. They are a spectacle to see flying free in the wild! (Dana Allen / www.photosafari-africa.net)

African grey parrots are among the most populous pets on earth with millions upon millions removed from the wild to supply “bird mills” that breed these parrots for the pet trade. They are a spectacle to see flying free in the wild! (Dana Allen / www.photosafari-africa.net)

Dana Allen

African green pigeons only really come to the ground when they drink water and congregate at salt mud pans in forest clearings. They are captured in their thousands at these vulnerable locations to supply the bushmeat trade. See: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/08/29/will-the-congos-green-pigeons-go-the-way-of-the-passenger-pigeon/ Photographed here in Odzala-Kokoua National Park (Congo). (Dana Allen)

Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com

Baby bonobo with caring mother. We have no right to cause undue harm to these great apes. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

 

The remnant forests and wildlife communities that we find today in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are the result of the importation of millions of guns and billions of ammunitions over hundreds of years. All weapons imported have contributed to killing, poaching, hunting, dividing, and destabilizing. These forest have seen hungry child armies and militias with no support, little leadership, and unrestricted access to arms. Rape and civil turmoil have kept local people in the dark ages and displaced millions of refugees. The culture of killing instilled by colonial powers has persisted with birds being caught en masse for bushmeat, large hardwoods being clear-felled, the last elephants and hippo being shot for their tusks, and great apes like bonobos being eaten by local villagers. World powers have effectively chosen to ignore the devastating impacts of the historical trade in ivory, rhino horn, animal skins, rubber, slaves, and live animals. The carnage currently playing out in Africa started with colonial exploitation, then the boom of sport hunting and “safari”, and now continues under the weight of booming populations and growing civil unrest. We are coming to a “tipping point” beyond which we will be powerless to save the last ancient forest refugia remaining in Africa. We need to do eberything we can to bring stability and prosperity to the Congo before it is too late…

 

Colonial ivory exports far exceed anything that is happening today and damaged local elephant populations beyond repair. This is a single shipment from Kisangani... (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Colonial ivory exports far exceed anything that is happening today and damaged local elephant populations beyond repair. This is a single shipment from Kisangani… (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)
Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com

“Smoked green pigeons from the forest for sale in Kindu. To get here the traders walked 19 km from the Parc des Pigeons to the road and then continued by bicycle the rest of the way.” (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com

These beautiful green pigeons are clearly stressed and now await an unbeknown fate worse than any natural death. They will be plucked and skewered before smoking over a fire while still alive to keep the meat fresh. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

World Parrot Trust / PASA

Confiscated, wild-caught Timneh grey parrots in their own faeces being unpacked at the Limbe Wildlife Centre in Cameroon. These parrots live for 60-80 years, have advanced cognitive abilities and complex social interactions, and should be treated with the respect and care they deserve. (World Parrot Trust / PASA)

Ralf Mullers

“Poaching is a problem in the Bangweulu Wetlands GMA, like in any other park. The GMA is the only place in the world where black lechwe can be seen. This endemic species occurs in high numbers in the park, the latest estimates are 75.000, but also lives close to human settlements. During this particular arrest, 19 carcasses were found with the poachers. All the meat has to be weighed and brought to court.” (Ralf Mullers)

Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com

Dehydrated and stressed out baby bonobo abandoned in the sun outside the building where his/her mother is being grilled. This is a barbaric, unethical act that must be treated with harsh punishment. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

 

Why are we eating bonobos? Can we save Africa’s vast wildernesses from destruction?

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/14/why-are-we-eating-bonobos-can-we-save-africas-vast-wildernesses-from-destruction/

 

Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com

Pangolin taken in a snare trap in the Rubi-Tele Reserve (Democratic Republic of Congo). The demand for pangolin scales in Chinese medicine is killing off a natural wonder that would take your breath away if you saw it in person. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

 

40 pangolin traffickers with 1,220 pangolins arrested in Interpol operation across Asia:

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/08/30/40-pangolin-traffickers-with-1220-pangolins-arrested-in-interpol-operation-across-asia/

 

INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme / Vietnam Customs

Truck full of hundreds of pangolins ready for shipment… Hundreds of trucks like this probably manage to get through all the time. How many pangolins do we lose each year? (INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme / Vietnam Customs)

 

Please look at and share this series of photographs depicting a “secret Congo”, one only seen at night when the guns are not out hunting and the remaining wildlife can move around more freely. The destruction that we bring to these forests is unrelenting and now reaches the most remote areas where wildlife was previously left untouched. These photographs are all from an area called “TL2″, which includes field-bases and village camps in the basins of the three rivers, the Tshuapa, Lomami, and Lualaba. The TL2 Project has more than 25 long-term staff spread out in several teams in three provinces of central DR Congo. They are mainly local Congolese staff that grew up in the TL2 region and advanced from temporary camp hands to organizing missions and leading research teams. We need to support projects like this and do everything we can to ensure that the remaining wilderness areas in Africa are given a chance to recover and persist for future generations…

 

A private moment with a baby bonobo riding on the back of mother... These moments can only be captured by a camera trap in the deep forest. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

A private moment with a baby bonobo riding on the back of mother… These moments can only be captured by a camera trap in the deep forest. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Forest hogs have found it difficult to adjust to high poaching levels in the eastern DRC where they are targeted by large snares and traps. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Forest hogs have found it difficult to adjust to high poaching levels in the eastern DRC where they are targeted by large snares and traps. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Bonobos moving through the forest during the day is a rare sight and one that can only be caught using a camera trap these days... (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Bonobos moving through the forest during the day is a rare sight and one that can only be caught using a camera trap these days… (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Lesula monkeys live in in the E DRC and were discovered in a market in the village of Opala in 2007. Since then they have been seen in the wild using camera traps. Its range is between the Lomami and Tshuapa rivers. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Lesula monkeys live in in the E DRC and were discovered in a market in the village of Opala in 2007. Since then they have been seen in the wild using camera traps. Its range is between the Lomami and Tshuapa rivers. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The greatest danger deep in the forest are people. Captured perfectly here by this camera trap... (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The greatest danger deep in the forest are people. Captured perfectly here by this camera trap… (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The forest elephants that remain are restricted to moving about and feeding at night when in areas close to people. We need to do everything we can to enable Africa to protect our remaining elephants... (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The forest elephants that remain are restricted to moving about and feeding at night when in areas close to people. We need to do everything we can to enable Africa to protect our remaining elephants… (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Forest buffalo were once numerous and considered a danger in the forest. Today they are a rare sighting in remote patches of forest. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Forest buffalo were once numerous and considered a danger in the forest. Today they are a rare sighting in remote patches of forest. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The rarely-ever seen forest aardvark captured here by the cameratrap as it moves through the forest floor in search of termites... They are caught and clubbed to death or dug out from their burrows and killed. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The rarely-ever seen forest aardvark captured here by the cameratrap as it moves through the forest floor in search of termites… They are caught and clubbed to death or dug out from their burrows and killed. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Giant pangolin are only ever seen in bush meat markets and are little-known in the wild. High demand for their meat and scales in Asia and around Africa drives unsustainable levels of poaching. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

Giant pangolin are only ever seen in bush meat markets and are little-known in the wild. High demand for their meat and scales in Asia and around Africa drives unsustainable levels of poaching. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

"Ghost in the darkness"... Leopards have less food and face the constant danger of being trapped in a snare or shot by a local hunter. Without camera traps we would know very little about them. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

“Ghost in the darkness”… Leopards have less food and face the constant danger of being trapped in a snare or shot by a local hunter. Without camera traps we would know very little about them. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

John Hart / Maurice Emetshu / www.bonoboincongo.com

The little-known leopards of the Congo are the “ghosts in the darkness”. The “Leopards” are the national soccer team of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (John Hart / Maurice Emetshu / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The diminutive yellow-back duiker hides in thick brush and emerge at night to feed and move about more freely. For the last 200 years, these forests have been filled with people and guns. Conflict and unrest the norm... Lesula monkeys live in in the E DRC and were discovered in a market in the village of Opala in 2007. Since then they have been seen in the wild using camera traps. Its range is between the Lomami and Tshuapa rivers. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

The diminutive yellow-back duiker hides in thick brush and emerge at night to feed and move about more freely. For the last 200 years, these forests have been filled with people and guns. Conflict and unrest the norm… Lesula monkeys live in in the E DRC and were discovered in a market in the village of Opala in 2007. Since then they have been seen in the wild using camera traps. Its range is between the Lomami and Tshuapa rivers. (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

A sound of red river hogs caught by a camer trap near the research camp. Without the cover of darkness the animals of the Congo forests would have no where to hide... (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

A sound of red river hogs caught by a camer trap near the research camp. Without the cover of darkness the animals of the Congo forests would have no where to hide… (Terese Hart / www.bonoboincongo.com)

 

Message from Dr Terese Hart: “The TL2 Project has a budget of $780,000 for 2012. It is a large project that we run efficiently, fairly and transparently. One month ago we were still missing $339,000 for 2012, but because of your generosity and a proposal that was funded we are now only missing less than $99,000.  We are encouraged and sure that we will make it through the end of this year and start 2013 at full strength.”

Comments

  1. Benjamin Shanker
    St. Louis, Missouri
    September 12, 2013, 10:43 pm

    Unbelievably touching, passionate page of pictures you have here. So much beautiful life over there that needs to be here as a testament to the ingenuity of the world’s processes around us if anything. Thank you!

  2. plr ebook
    http://www.pingplr.com/
    April 24, 2013, 10:21 am

    Hello there, I discovered your web site by way of Google while looking to get a related subject, your site got here up, it seems to become great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  3. Johannes Richter
    South Africa
    March 1, 2013, 4:56 am

    Forget natural selection. Humans are a case of survival of the unfit. Heaven will be full of animals and almost devoid of humans.