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Please go to my new Psychology Today blog to see what I'm up to. To buy the book, Bonobo Handshake, please visit my website. To follow the adventures of the Lola ya Bonobo orphans, please visit Friends of Bonobos

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vanga gets carried away

Since all the terrors left the nursery, sweet little Vanga has now taken over and boy is he a mess. While I was there last time a woman walked out bleeding from her ear where Vanga bit her - a good warning for anyone who thinks these little cuties make good pets.

Getting bitten by a bonobo is no fun. Vanga is doing a dominance display, since he is now the one who has been in the nursery the longest. Lomela is the biggest and could kick his ass if she wanted but she is too sweet... Eleke is a goofball, and that just leaves the girls.

The bonobos bite each other quite hard, even when they are playing, so it's likely he doesn't mean anything by those chomping teeth, but still, the mamas are warning anyone who wants to come into the nursery that it's at their peril!

The last woman who went in got her tshirt completely ripped off by Sake and Vanga! she was very good natured about it and donated the remnants to the terrible two. Sake immediately ran to the swimming pool, wet the tshirt then poured the water over her head.

sake plays with her new toy

does a little bit of washing

Waka and Masisi look on in wonder - how can Vanga be such a brat and get away with it?

Adopt a bonobo!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mama Henriette, the masked bandit

Lukuru, Lomela, and Eleke

Odile Procksch sent these photos - Mama Henriette put on a traditional Congolese mask from a tribe int he north and you can see how freaked out everyone was!! As a scientist, I wonder what they think she was doing. did they recognise her? were they scared the way children would be scared? or were they scared but at the same time titillated?

Anyway, all you anxious adopted parents out there, you can see your babies are doing well. I'll even do some kindergarten portraits for you so you can see how your kids have grown!

Lukuru & Eleke

(left to right) Vanga, Waka, Kataco (on Mama Henriette's lap), Lukuru, Lomela, reaching out her hand, and Eleke crawling roung the back

Sponsor a bonobo!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lukuru and her water bottle

Just got sent some photos by Alix Ortega who was recently at Lola. Lukuru is snuggled up with her water bottle - she is so cute!

i remember seeing her this way when at Lola, when the babies were deep in sleep they hugged their water bottles just as they would hug thier mother's stomachs. i wondered if they forgot where they were for a while, and were dreaming that they were back in the forest, sleeping on their mum's tummy.

it made me really sad. but then i am just grateful they made it to Lola and didn't end up dead from shock or eaten. they grow up happy. i'm glad they have a human like resiliance.

This is Masisi. she started off so sweet and quiet but now she is apparently a little wild thing - swinging all over her night cage and freaking out Lukuru!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sandoa's new mum

Sandoa has become very attached to Esperance, who has not had a bonobo baby since her little Vanga 3 years ago. Vanga is now the nursery terror, replacing Boyoma who went to group 3. I'm sure he's not happy about the new arrival, but Lomela adores Sandoa. In typical Lomela fashion, she is just so gentle and sweet, despite being twice as big as any of the other bonobos in the nursery, she's no bully. She touches Sandoa softly every now and then, as if to let her know that she might be sad now, but everything will be alright.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sandoa doing well

Sandoa is progressing well, the biggest danger was infection from the two lacerations around her groin - when bonobos ar etethered for a long time, the rope cuts into them, rubs into the raw would and festers - it can be very dangerous.

But after much disinfecting, the wounds are healing nicely. She has a big apetite - always a good sign (remember our little Lomela) and more than anything loves sugar cane, pineapples and oranges.

the next step is to see how the results come back from the lab. hopefully she doens't have anything serious.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

new orphan at Lola

In the middle of all the heart ache with Amazone, there has been a new orphan arrived at Lola.

Her name is Sandow and she's only two years old. On Sunday afternon, Claudine's husband Victor, was at their house when a military soldier dropped in with a baby bonobo he found in Bolobo ( a village near Bandundu) during his service. He was told by a fellow officer who lived in the same neighborhood as Claudine to take the bonobo to Claudine's in his jeep.
Once the soldier arrived, he wanted to sell it.
Victor, who is an incredibly debonair half Rwandan, half Italian, stood in the doorway waving his cigar and asked
'And who do I have the honour of greeting?'
'I am an officer and I've come to sell this bonobo for money so I can send my kids to school.'
'Thank you officer, but the bonobo is a protected species by law, because they are in danger of extinction, and they only live in one country - ours. If you want to sell him, fine, but it's forbidden and you could end up in jail.'
The officer was convinced and left the bonobo with Victor, who brought Sandoa to the sanctuary the next day.
So when Claudine and Pierrot came back from taking Amazone to see the doctors, Sandoa was waiting for them.

She's in good condition, except for lacerations around her groin where a rope had tethered her.
Clemence, the vet is taking good care of her.

As for what Amazone has to do with Lola, nothing, except she was found in Basankusu, where the bonobos will be released next year. I get a lot of questions about the callousness of the Congolese, how can they shoot and kill animals so like ourselves.

To me, Amazone is an answer. While children are suffering like this, the bonobo doesn't have much hope.

But for Sandoa, there is hope enough. It's a testament to the effectiveness of Lola's education programs that the friend of the officer who turned Sandoa in knew about Claudine, and that bonobos should be in a forest, not kept as a pet.

Thank you all so much for your continued support. It's because of you that Lola can keep going. Thank you from Amazone too. Because of your donations to the sanctuary, Claudine isn't spending every penny of her own money on pineapples and bananas for the bonobos, and can pay for Amazone's medical expenses.

Bonobo handshakes to everyone.

All your adopted infants are going well, I haven't heard of any one being sick or in trouble.

Kisantu's baby is also good, here she is with her.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Amazone update.

Just recieved this message from Claudine:

Amazone and her parents have arrived by night with the 'boat people' on a 12 day journey to Maluku, the nearest port to Kinshasa. In the morning, they were kindly greeted by a military person who I called to take care of her. I sent Pierrot (our education officer) to collect her in the trunk.

They arrived at Lola at around 4 in the afternoon. We had two rooms for them by the river, but they were completely empty. Papa Jean, Alain, and Didier found everything for them, beds, mattresses, tables, chairs, sheets, blankets, everything. All they owned was a cup, and a small sac of flour and manioc that they bought before leaving Basankusu. They were still wearing the same clothes that I found them in 2 weeks ago.

The plastic cup was given to Amazone by her grandmother, Koko, without whom Amazone would not have the courage to live. They had nothing else. I don't know how they managed on the boat. I paid for their tickets and I left them with $50 for the voyage and $10 for the rest... but anyway, now they are here, and we have a chance to do something for the little girl.

During the day while Pierrot collected them at Maluku, I did some investigation in the city. Friends who were Congolese doctors, the Belgian Ambassador and everyone I could think off that might be able to help. I thought of a friend, the Maltese Ambassador who sent me to Doctor Kasongo. We have an appointment now for Thursday.

Yesterday morning, I saw Amazone for the first time since I left her in Basankusu. The tumour has doubled, and the pain of the poor child is obvious.

So here is the history that I could find. The tomour is 11 months old. It started at Baringa, near Salonga National Park near the river Maringa, just next to Basankusu. Amazone was six years old. It started with a tooth ache, but no one saw it really well because in the forest, they prefer just to take it out. Then everything started.

Dr Kasango said that it's not impossible that the point of origin of the tumour to be in the cells of the teeth.

After the start of the deformation, about 4 months latter, they put all their hopes in a very long journey from Maringa to Baskankusu. This was 8 months before I met them. The doctor in Basankusu diagnosed 'a malignant tumour' (there is a good hopsital in Basankusu but for a biopsy? you're dreaming) The doctor prescribed chemotherapy ('gusty', said Dr Kasongo 'without a biopsy) and prescribed 6 injections, of $100 each.

The missionaries paid for 2, and the swelling went down, but then they stopped the treatment and the tumour came back even worse than ever.

And here we are.

Dr Kasongo prescribed a pain killer, I paid for the $300 scan, we sent off the scan images today, there will be a biopsy on Friday morning that we will send to a professor at UCL.

I have to get back to Lola now, to take care of things there.



Le Dr a prescrit un anti-douleur , je lui ai payé son scanner (300$)
j'enverrai les images aujourd'hui au Dr Kasango, il lui fera la
biopsie vendredi matin, pour l'envoyer à BXL où il est professeur à
L'UCL, et a l'habitude.
Nous sommes rentrés à Lola continué à installer nos invités, et
commencé à leur trouver des habits autour de nous!...
A suivre...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

burkitts -disturbing images

dunno if i told you, but i've heard from 3 tropical disease specialists now who say it's probably Burkitt's lymphoma. Here is what i could find about Burkitts on the web. as you can see from the pics, it looks like Amazone's got it.

Burkitt’s lymphoma (or Burkitt Lymphoma) is an uncommon type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). Burkitt’s lymphoma commonly affects children. It is a highly aggressive type of B-cell lymphoma that often starts and involves body parts other than lymph nodes. In spite of its fast-growing nature, Burkitt’s lymphoma is often curable with modern intensive therapies.

There are two broad types of Burkitt’s lymphoma – the sporadic and the endemic varieties. There is a very high incidence of this disease in equatorial Africa, and disease in this region is called endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma. Disease in other regions of the world is much less common, and is called sporadic Burkitt’s lymphoma. Though they are the same disease, the two forms are different in many ways.

Endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma:

In equatorial Africa, about half of all childhood cancers are Burkitt’s lymphoma. The disease involves children much more than adults, and is related to Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) infection in 95% cases. It characteristically has a high chance of involving the jawbone, a rather distinctive feature that is rare in sporadic Burkitt’s. It also commonly involves the abdomen.

Burkitt’s lymphoma is a highly aggressive tumor, and often life threatening. But it is also one of the more curable forms of lymphoma. With current aggressive forms of chemotherapy that uses drugs in high doses, and with the availability of new measures to support individuals during intensive treatment, this lymphoma is curable in many patients. Nearly 80% of those with localized disease and more than half the children with more widespread disease are cured. Late relapses are hardly seen.

spoke to facing the world

I spoke to Sarah at Facing the World this morning. They are really wonderful. Anyway this is the update:

Amazone arrived in Kinshasa yesterday morning. Claudine picked her up from the port where she arrived off the boat. Claudine said Amazone's tumour has doubled in the 11 days since she last saw her.

She has an appointment at the Kinshasa hospital tommorrow morning at 8am. They are taking a tissue biopsy and then doing a CT scan.

If it looks like she has a good chance to live, Facing the World will take her on, fly her to the UK, fix her tumour and generally give her the miracle we've been hoping for. But if it looks like she'll die, then its no use really yanking her from home and putting her through a painful operation.

so we'll see tommorrow.

keep you all in the loop.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Amazone & new baby

Just to keep you all informed, Amazone is on her way to Kinshasa. Facing the World has asked for her to have a scan and biopsy to see if they can help her. I called the Executive Coordinator - Sarah Driver -Jowitt because I was so anxious and excited.... and woke her up at midnight.

Mental note to all those making pleading phone calls from across the Atlantic - CHECK THE TIME ZONES! Hopefully she won't hate me when I call her tommorrow...

On a happy note, Kisantu gave birth! She was so pregnant when we were at Lola last month I thought she was going to pop. I was hoping and watching her every day to see if the baby would come but she held out for a whole other month!

Anyway, here she is, about to pop, and then of course her sweet new baby!

They are both healthy, and the birth went well. It's a little boy!

Friday, September 5, 2008

facing the world

Hi everyone,

after emailing everyone you suggested, an organisation called facing the world came back with this response:

Dear Ms Woods,

Thank you for passing on the details of this very deserving case.

In order to help with a diagnosis (needed to see if she can come to the UK
under our programme) we will need to have some history:

When was the tumor first noticed.
What has been the progress (describe as well as possible)
Is it painful
What does it feel like - is it soft and squigy, is it hard, is it lumpy?

We will almost definitely need a scan and a biopsy. (But I have sent her
photos to the surgeons)

Facing the World will be able to pay for these but we will need to
investigate the medical facilities locally.

Kind regards,

Sarah Driver-Jowitt
Executive Co-ordinator: Facing the World

I've emailed Claudine with these questions and hopefully she gets back to me soon. will let you know what happens!! thank you so much everyone for your help!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

little girl with a tumour

Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I will email these organisations one by one, once I try to find out more information from Claudine.

I emailed a doctor at Duke University and this is what he said...

This is an incredible case of what appears to be a large tumor.....I am
just not sure what but may be it is a Burkitt's lymphoma. There is no way
fro me to diagnose by picture.....we have people in Tanzania from Duke but
I do not know of anyone in the Congo and I feel impotent to give you any
My colleague John Bartlett here at Duke just came back from Tanzania and he
a director of Duke's Global Health so he might be able to provide
better insight and you could contact him. Just not sure what kind of
medical care is available in Congo.
I wish I could be of more help but just don't know what is available.
John P.

I emailed John Bartlett and he said,

Vanessa, how quickly has this tumor developed? If it has been very fast (ie days to weeks) then Burkitt's lymphoma is a good possibility. If it has been over months, then I would guess that she has nasopharyngeal carcinoma. A biopsy is needed to differentiate between them. Based on my travels in East Africa, I think that medical care in Nairobi, Eldoret or Kampala would give her the best chance for care. Centers in these cities do offer chemotherapy for Burkitt's, which has a reasonable chance for cure. It is complicated by the fact that she is from DRC and may have a hard time accessing care in these facilities as a non-citizen. Sorry not to have more hopeful news, John


They were both very fast to respond, which I'm grateful for. So I'll email Claudine now and try and find out more information to send to the NGOs.

Girl with a tumour

Just received this post from Claudine:

'I have had my heart broken by a little seven year old girl called Amazone. Her parents came to me to ask my help. I attach the photos for you to see. How can anyone remain unmoved by her suffering. I did not succeed. I paid for the passage on the only boat that left for Kinshasa, but the Commander refused to let her on board, calling her a 'freak show'. I stormed on board and asked if he was an imbecile - she has a tumour, it's not contagious.

So finally today she left for Kinshasa, where she visited 3 years ago. Her father told me they needed to give her 4 injections, but he could only afford 2. He told me the swelling went down a lot (can you imagine?) I wanted to help more, but who would help me? A doctor? An ambassador? A hope chain?

A number of people I've approached told me I had better things to do, but how awful human suffering is to watch. I am ashamed to look myself in the mirror. These poor people, who lack a few bills in their hands.'

So I know this is hopeless, and asking for a miracle, but does anyone know of a program, or an NGO, or someone who could help? Even to diagnose it. I've written to Duke Hospital, but it's difficult to diagnose something like this from a photo.

I hear sometimes of miracle cases, of children brought to the US to be treated for a horrible disease - does anyone know how this happens?