[RALEIGH] — In 1993, a baby bonobo changed Claudine Andre’s life forever. When the injured creature arrived at the Kinshasa Zoo it had little hope of surviving. Andre, then a zoo volunteer, was determined to save him and was instantly drawn into an adventure that continues to this day.
Learn more about what led Andre to establish a bonobo sanctuary in the middle of a war-torn country when she presents “Protecting Bonobos: Rescue, Rehabilitation and Conservation Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo” at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Tuesday, August 21 at 7:00pm in the Main Auditorium at 11 West Jones Street. Free. Doors open at 6:30pm.
After working for years to protect bonobos and other threatened animals of the Congo, Andre founded Lola ya Bonobo (“paradise for bonobos”), in 2002. As the world’s first and only such sanctuary, Lola ya Bonobo is now home to 62 bonobos who live in 86 forested acres just outside of Kinshasa, the capital and largest city of the Congo.
Bonobos, like chimpanzees, share 98.7 percent of DNA with humans. And although they look very similar to chimpanzees, bonobos couldn’t be more different. Like humans, chimpanzees wage war, and sometimes even kill each other. Bonobos do neither. Instead, the females are in charge and seem to keep everyone’s temper under control with sexual activity.
Yet bonobos are one of the rarest of the great apes, with somewhere between 5,000 and 50,000 left in the wild, and all of them live in the Congo. Bonobos suffer from habitat loss and victimization due to the bushmeat trade practice. Many infants are sold as pets, or for use in witchcraft. Additionally, the instability of the Congo has made it almost impossible to study bonobos. The next decade will be crucial in determining whether they survive the next generation.
Andre’s reach extends beyond her sanctuary to the rest of the Congo, tirelessly working to educate the Congolese about the bonobo as a unique, endangered and flagship species; about animal welfare issues; and about the bushmeat and pet trades. Andre has been awarded the National Order of Merit by France and the Prince Laurent Prize of the Environment by Belgium. She frequently presents at conferences all over the world, raising awareness for bonobos and ensuring the protection of their future.