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

by Aug 16, 2013Great Apes, Wildlife News

From acclaimed author and renowned journalist Deni Béchard, Empty Hands, Open Arms is a poignant first-hand account of the work of a small NGO, The Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), and their efforts to save the last living bonobos and the Congolese rainforest they call home is altogether environmental, political, historical, and anthropological—what Kirkus Reviews’ deems “a rich, complex account.”

Extensive travel across the Congo and Rwanda and hundreds of hours of interviews with global conservationists led to Béchard’s discovery of BCI’s success in working closely with Congolese communities, addressing problems of poverty and unemployment, all of which was causing the endangerment of the bonobos.

By creating jobs, building schools, and endorsing self-replication so that communities can continue projects on their own, BCI is changing the conditions leading to the eradication of bonobos—while creating a truly unique and postcolonial method of conservation in the process.

The process is far from easy—the Congo has been devastated by many years of genocidal military conflict, as well as particularly aggressive logging and mining.

Béchard is able to find voices and stories of optimism and inspiration, and fills his account with portraits of extraordinary individuals and communities who make it all happen. Empty Hands, Open Arms offers a rich example of how international conservation must be reinvented before it’s too late.