To Keep a
bonobo alive is a very difficult thing
|When we receive a new
bonobo, the most difficult thing is to bring back its instinct to live.
Baby bonobos are very sensitive from a psychological and physical point of view and the trauma of separation from the mother is life-threatening !
In the wild, baby bonobos cling to their mother's bodies for close to five years. Orphaned bonobos will let themselves die unless they are provided with a "substitute mother" for as long as possible throughout the day. This constant need for attention and the bonobos' susceptibility to human diseases explain that, contrary to chimpanzees, there are virtually no cases of bonobos surviving into adulthood as pets.
If the baby bonobo fails to adopt its substitute mother or if she gives up on him, all the medicine and food in the world will not save him !
All of the Sanctuary's bonobos are still babies or juveniles ; the role of substitute mother for the youngest among them therefore be filled by A.A.C staff (man or woman).
The orphan will then be total dependant on his or her substitute mother for 8 to 10 hours per day - will be very reluctant to change substitute mothers or to share her with other bonobos
|Once the young bonobos have gained confidence in themselves, they are introduced, little by little, in the enclosure of the older ones, in the arms and under the protection of the staff person who serves as their substitute mother. Socialization with the other bonobos comes progressively, until the final introduction of the young bonobo into the group of the juveniles.|
|Bonobos primarily eat fruit and vegetables. they are also given milk (since females breastfeed their babies for four to five years) and eggs to balance the protein content of their diet. In their natural environment, their protein intake comes from plants which are not easy to find in Kinshasa, such as "mikungu" (megaphrynium macrostachyum of the monocotyledon family)|
|As in a kinder garden,
every disease at the Nursery will tend to spread quickly to all bonobos.
Ideally, the Sanctuary should have an enclosure for the isolation of sick
or suspect animals, to prevent contagion. In practice, there isn't
sufficient space at the current site to do so.
Medical care is provided by our staff with support from a pediatrician when necessary, as our experience at the Nursery has demonstrated the extreme fragility of baby bonobos : every disease is a potential emergency.
|The Bonobo Sanctuary
of Congo provides a unique opportunity. In most bonobo groups being
studied in captivity, young bonobos learn to socialize into a pre-existing
At the Sanctuary of Kinshasa, bonobos have no parental model of their original social organization, which is egalitarian, matrilineal and matriarchal.
The bonobos are a group of orphans who all arrived at the Sanctuary at a very young age (average arrival age of 2 years). With two bonobos of pre-adult age (7 to 9 years, when puberty is at 8 to 12 years) and seven juveniles, the group will soon have potential to organize themselves into a social group without any adult model. It will be very interesting to study both the social organization obtained and the relative importance of various factors (instinct, sex, personality, human influence) which may affect the structure and social organization of the group.
|Ethological observations will become particularly interesting once the adult Sanctuary has been set up, since bonobo interactions will be less affected by the presence of a human caretaker or "substitute mother" inside the enclosure. Once some females have reached adulthood, it is possible that they themselves start to play this role of substitute mothers to orphans. All these elements must be observed in a systematic fashion and analyzed scientifically, in order to better understand this anthropoid species so close to the human species.|
|The Sanctuary collaborates
with scientific research, within the limits of rigorous environmental and
protection ethics. Within the framework, a blood sample is taken from each
newly arrived bonobo to test them for HIV, SIV, HTLV, STLV. At the
occasion of these health control test, the serums obtained are shared with
scientists who request
Over the years, this collaboration has benefited various scientific laboratories in France and the United States.
The Sanctuary's work is recognized by the main experts in field-bases ethological research, in particular Japanese, Belgian, American and British primatologists, who have supported the Sanctuary both morally and financially.
|The road is still long
towards the creation of a natural reserve for the reintroduction of
orphaned bonobos in the forest of Bandundu province and until that time
when the bonobo, which has been called "the Forgotten Ape" is at
last recognized by all Congolese as a unique treasure of their national
The AAC's enthusiasm nevertheless remains intact and the Association will continue its active fight for the protection of this endemic species so close to humans.
We are convinced that better knowledge of the bonobo, through a mesological education program, will lead people to better respect and love it and thereby contribute to protection in situ the last bonobos still free.
Our motto is and will remain
"Protection starts with Education !"