Of Bonobos and Men: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo
Of Bonobos and Men is the account of this journey. Along the way, we see how partnerships between Congolese and Westerners, with few resources but a common purpose and respect for indigenous knowledge, have resulted in the protection of vast swaths of the rainforest. And we discover how small solutions—found through openness, humility, and the principle that “poverty does not equal ignorance”—are often most effective in tackling our biggest challenges. Combining elements of travelogue, journalism, and natural history, this incomparably rich book takes the reader not only deep into the Congo, but also into our past and future, revealing new ways to save the environment and ourselves.
hoped—that she was joyful to see him. During that reunion, he also met his cousin André, and by the end of his three-month visit, he and André were close friends. His mother wanted Michel to stay, but he told her that he was in charge of the hunt and that he’d promised to return home. And so he did, again on foot. But his journey began once more not long after. He was a good student, and his father sent him first to Kinshasa, then to Morocco to study. His older brother, who worked in Europe,
the upper reaches of the Maringa River, a tributary that flows northwest before curving south within the Congo’s great riverine arc. The dark green of the Congo basin covers much of Central Africa, its many tributaries trending west as the Congo River flows north and then turns toward the Atlantic Ocean before veering south, picking up the tributaries and growing in size. I gradually charted our path within this labyrinth that, more than anything else, mapped out the uniform expanse of the
basin rainforest, before the ice age, likely would have been much larger than now, allowing the common ancestor of chimpanzees and bonobos to circumvent the entire river system and cross over to the other side. But during the glacial maximum, the forest shrank, and survived only in the wettest pockets. Gorillas, who are vegetarians and sustain themselves on protein-rich shoots and buds, would have seen their food sources become scarce and their habitat dramatically reduced. They likely would have
Congo as a strategic reserve of cobalt, copper, uranium, and industrial diamonds. By threatening US interests, Lumumba set in motion the events that would lead to his death. When the army began rioting, Lumumba turned to his personal aide, a twenty-nine-year-old journalist and former soldier named Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, and appointed him chief of staff of the army, commanding him to restore order. Those with memories of Mobutu from this time were impressed not only by his intelligence and
forest. You have to know how to please everyone.” As Albert and I spoke in Kinshasa, Michael came to the door and asked how the interview was going. When I told him what we were discussing, he said that Albert was skilled at navigating the space between the Bongandu’s changing society and their ancient culture, especially in places where there was incredible conflict and need. He recalled Albert presiding over meetings with hundreds of people desperately wanting something. A conflict arose