Dr. Jo Thompson, Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Project, is a renowned wildlife biologist who has lived and worked in the most remote regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the past 17 years. She has primarily worked on studying and protecting the bonobo, as well as being a leader in partnering with the local people.
Continuing to work throughout most of a 10 year war in the DRC, Jo organized a pioneering effort to support conservation work in the DRC protected areas throughout the worst years of the war. She led a one-of-its-kind mission of top Congolese conservationists to meet with Security Council member state ambassadors at the United Nations while continuing field activities under the most challenging conditions. These contributions distinguished her as an internationally acclaimed real-world conservationist, for which she was awarded the title of 2004 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Associate Laureate.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, England; Master's degree from the University of Colorado, Denver; and her Bachelor's degree from Wittenberg University, Ohio. She is a member of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and most recently co-edited and contributed to a seminal book on bonobo conservation. Jo is a contributing author to several books regarding aspects of wild bonobo ecology, distribution and evolution. She has published multiple articles in peer-reviewed and popular wildlife and conservation journals and magazines.
Jo's research site is in the southernmost region of the bonobo's range, where dry, patchy forest is found in galleries along the watercourses and savanna on the hilltops. The story of how she first met a wild bonobo can be read in Grains of Golden Sand (Bonoboas and Driver Ants).
What distinguishes Jo is her appreciation and understanding of the local people. This grassroots approach led her to purchase, within the tribal system, a vast tract of terrain for her bonobo research.
Featured in this photo is Mvula, Dr. Thompson's field assistant. She says about him, "Mvula has worked with me for 15 years. He is one of the -- if not THE -- best bonobo trackers in the country ... a skill he learned over the years as we worked together. He is also the project leader in the management of the Bososandja Domaine Naturelle. He is very well known throughout the Lukuru region and highly respected. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is very loyal to bonobo conservation. He is a great guy. I trust him with my life."