Most of BCBI’s field operations are based at Etate, located on the Salonga River, Watsi Kengo Sector of the northern block of the Salonga National Park, and 58 km from Watsi Kengo Station. Etate, a converted poaching camp, is both a research station and ICCN guard patrol post. It is the first checkpoint for traffic entering the park via the Salonga River. Etate serves as a model patrol post and a regional training center for guards. The forest surrounding Etate’s core area harbors a resident population of approximately 500 bonobos, which we have monitored since 2002.
Etate is currently maintained and staffed by nine ICCN guards, two full-time research assistants, a literacy teacher, and a river pilot. The guards are led by Bokitsi Bunda, chief of the Patrol Post. Bunda is a 2011 recipient of the Abraham Conservation Award – an award given by the Alexander Abraham Foundation (NY) to people in Asia and Africa who have made significant contributions to care for their environment. This is the highest honor a park guard in DRC can receive. To read an interview with Bunda, please visit Mongabay.com.
Etate is made up of several buildings, consisting of guard barracks, paillotes, and housing for the BCBI research team. Built of traditional materials, wood and thatch, Etate is a simple yet picturesque field outpost providing a comfortable base camp accessible to the rest of the park and nearby villages. It is equipped with a two-way radio, solar panels, pirogues, an outboard motor, and basic field supplies. Both guards and research teams launch their activities from Etate.