Jan 31

Friends of Bonobos

Humans have always had an affinity for animals, but our connection to bonobos runs much deeper than a simple affection - as we share 97.8 percent of the same DNA with this highly intelligent species.

Considered our closest living relatives, bonobos share many of our human behaviors. They’re known to teach their young social skills, use tools to get food, and work together for the good of the entire troop. Yet these clever creatures are considered to be the most endangered of the Great Apes, and their extinction in our own lifetimes looms as a real possibility due to hunting, habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.

All of the remaining bonobos live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but estimates on their exact numbers are a mystery – ranging anywhere from 50,000 to just 5,000. The reason for this lack of knowledge stems from the fact that the area is still recovering from a decade long war that made studying the species impossible. Now, with the war over and stability returning to the DRC, researchers must make up for lost time in their conservation efforts.

In order to help this special species survive, a sanctuary called “Lola Ya Bonobo” was created with the goal of providing a safe environment for rescued bonobo orphans - and then, eventually, reintroducing them back into the wild. Meeting the needs of baby bonobos, however, is quite the task. The facility must not only meet the animal’s physical needs with appropriate veterinary care, but also their psychological needs, since most have experienced great trauma. To combat this, infant bonobos are immediately given to a substitute mother who gives them all the love and reassurances they need to survive. At the age of 5 or 6, if the infants are sufficiently healthy and confident, they are then introduced into a group of juveniles and adults.

In addition, efforts are made to educate children and the local people about the importance of preserving the species. Schools are encouraged to create “Kindness Clubs”– and civil servants from the Ministry of Environment are invited to visit often to ensure that laws protecting the species are enforced.

The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has supported “Friends of Bonobos” since 2008 and is pleased to help them secure a safe future for these great apes.

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