Empty Hands, Open Arms: The Race to Save Bonobos in the Congo and Make Conservation Go Viral Hardcover - Deni Béchard
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The Race to Save Bonobos in the Congo and Make Conservation Go Viral Hardcover - Deni Béchard

Written by Deni Béchard
Edition: 2013
Format(s): EPUB
Language: English

When acclaimed author Deni Béchard first learned of the last living bonobos—matriarchal great apes that are, alongside the chimpanzee, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom—he was completely astonished. How could the world possibly accept the extinction of this majestic species?

Béchard discovered one relatively small NGO, the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), which has done more to save bonobos than many far larger organizations. Based on the author’s extensive travels in the Congo and Rwanda, this book explores BCI's success, offering a powerful, truly postcolonial model of conservation. In contrast to other traditional conservation groups Béchard finds, BCI works closely with Congolese communities, addressing the underlying problems of poverty and unemployment, which lead to the hunting of bonobos. By creating jobs and building schools, they gradually change the conditions that lead to the eradication of the bonobos.

This struggle is far from easy. Devastated by the worst military conflict since World War II, the Congo and its forests continue to be destroyed by aggressive logging and mining. Béchard's fascinating and moving account—filled with portraits of the extraordinary individuals and communities who make it all happen offers a rich example of how international conservation must be reinvented before it's too late.

From Booklist
In the great-ape category of endangered species, gorillas and chimpanzees have so far received the bulk of media attention, mostly due to celebrity zoologists such as Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall championing their cause. Hence, until recently, one unusual—and endangered—primate, the bonobo of the Congo rain forest, had been comparatively overlooked by photojournalists and TV nature-show producers, perhaps because the animals’ penchant for promiscuous sex would make filming a tad risqué. Fortunately, a nongovernmental organization called the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) has been quietly but effectively protecting bonobos’ habitat and convincing their human neighbors to stop hunting them. For this absorbing report on the BCI’s innovative methods, renowned journalist Bléchard mingled with Congo villagers and BCI fieldworkers, observing how the conservationists forged alliances with villagers to build new schools and create jobs. In a country torn by unremitting military strife and rapacious mining, BCI’s work has also helped slow rain-forest destruction. Bléchard’s masterful, adventure-driven reporting delivers an inspiring account of an all-too-rare ecological success story. --Carl Hays
"Béchard’s masterful, adventure-driven reporting delivers an inspiring account of an all-too-rare ecological success story." —Booklist

"[This book] re-imagines intervention for the benefit of both ecosystems and local communities." —Vancouver Sun

“A vivid, inspiring book.” —Maisonneuve

“When author Deni Béchard discovered bonobos shared almost 99 percent of human DNA, and based their relationships on cooperation and collaboration, he knew he had to write about them.” —Interview with Béchard in Independent European Daily Express

“Here is the matter of conservation given profound explanation—a searching and knowing consideration that enables an important social and political and cultural struggle in Africa to become a needed lesson for us who live elsewhere to ponder, take to heart.” —Robert Coles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, MacArthur Fellow, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

"A seed of hope in our time’s garden of despair." —Dale Peterson, author of The Moral Lives of Animals and Jane Goodall: the Woman who Redefined Man

“Intelligent, engaged, and above all, astonishingly perceptive.” —Dinaw Mengestu, MacArthur Fellow and author of The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears

“'Masterful and moving." —Grant Hayter-Menzies, author of Imperial Masquerade and Shadow Woman

"A tour de force." —Bruce Rich, author of Mortgaging the Earth

“Deni Béchard's riveting journey through the ‘dark continent’ provides a surprising uplifting story about a radically different and successful conservation program.“ —David Suzuki, author of The Sacred Balance

"Béchard's adventurous travels in the Congo offer spice to this rich, complex account." —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Deni Béchard

"Stunningly poignant." —O, The Oprah Magazine

"Béchard has a voice and a vision all his own, both tough-minded and passionately emotional." —Kirkus Reviews

"A clearly gifted writer." —Robert Olen Butler

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