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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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Claudine's trip up country

I've got bits and pieces of news from Claudine's visit up country to the release site which I'll be posting over the next few days.

The release is going ahead on June 14 - the very first bonobo release ever!

Claudine has done an amazing job preparing the local people, running the education programs and setting everything up. Soon all of us will be able to see bonobos released back into the wild - how exciting!

stay tuned for tommorrow's first update...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

thank you sheryl...

i'm back from congo now, and i wanted to say a big thank you to sheryl b, lukuru's mom, who has been helping me upload blog posts for the last 6 weeks. the line in congo is like, super slow, the internet breaking for days, and sheryl was just wonderful, helping me upload the posts and keeping everyone informed during the flu crisis.

what makes it even more touching is that sheryl's dog is very sick. i lost a dog a few years ago and i remember how tough it was. so if everyone could send sheryl mental hugs, i'm sure she would appreciate them.

here, s, lukuru sends hugs:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

chuppa chup!

kinshasa is in the nursery! and to celebrate, everybody got chuppa chups! kinshasa had sex with everyone and ran into the bushes before i got my camera out but Lukuru (on mama yvonne's lap), Waka and Sake all stuck around. Note sake doing her sommersault for joy...

Monday, April 27, 2009

holding kinshasa's feet!

after chasing kinshasa around for an hour yesterday, today when i took her for a walk i held tight her little feet. and i had to keep moving. if i stopped she wanted to run away again but as long as we kept going, she had no complaints. results back from the lab today - she is in perfect health!! she'll be going into the nursery tommorrow...

Friday, April 24, 2009

kinshasa does a runner

ok, so this was kinshasa's face today in the vet block...

the vet Anne Marie was like, she's driving us crazy. she's been bouncing off the walls. so i was like, 'ok, i'll take her outside for a bit'. so i take her outside, and she hangs on for about, oh, a second and then she runs! she ust starts runnign round and round the sanctuary and i can't get her back. here i am chasing her

so then i try everything; bananas, chocolate, apples, vitamins, pineapple - EVERYTHING. nope. then, weirdly, s a last resort, i try bread - and it works! got the little sucker back. from then on, i take her for walks but i make sure i always have her feet!!

sponsor a bonobo!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


kinshasa (the new orphan) is just kicking back in the vet block. we have to make sure she's not carrying any diseases before we introduce her into the nursery. She's super confident and playful. Not sad at all! She must have lost her mom a while ago. I'm glad b/c she seems in really good health and I can't handle any more sad things happening this month! i've decided the rest of the years is just going to go uphill from here!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the bush baby

in every thing that's happened, we forgot to announce the arrival of our newest orphan - Kinshasa. She is super cute and in very good health. We call her the bush baby because she looks like one - don't you think?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

shutterspeed travel...

yay! yay! yay!

Shutterspeed travel ( have just told us they will be donating $5000 to cover the food shortfall!! so that means we are up to $32,000 to cover the food shortfall, and only short $1,000!!! and i am sure we can raise that by the end of the year:)

Julie and Adam, the directors, have been to the sanctuary last year. they run amazing photography tours, look at little malaika

Also, I want to thank Kevin C who donated $150, Orlando Roberts who donated 55, Lynn Markert, Lee Shane, Elizabeth Burston, Robin Zimmerman, C Gresham who donated up to $50 and Lomela’s new adopted parents, David Bendelman, Melanie Lewert, and the famous artist Charles Alexander, and snotty nose Boyoma against all odds, found someone to love him in Lhuanys Bolanos in Costa Rica!

wow - i can't believe it and i'm so touched by everyone rallying together. to tell you the truth i thought i would be fundraising for months, maybe even till the end of the year to cover the 33K we need for bonobo food, but we did it, with your help in just under 3 weeks! what a relief!

thank you everyone!!!! thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009


We brought three bottles of vitamins in the shape of animals for the babies - little did I know how much we would need them!!! Here is Sandoa eating one in the shape of a dinosaur, but she's pretty much licked him into an oval ...

We still need donations for bonobo food - please help if you can. or

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We Love Bonobos Pants!

Last year, became one of our corporate sponsors. In case any body hasn't heard of them, they make the most stylish pants around. The first pair of pants I've bought Brian that actually fit! adopted three bonobos last year, and in response to the food crisis, I got an e-mail from the president, Andy, who said they would donate $1 for every new customer! That means they are sending us another $6,000 in addition to the $1,720 they've already sent us, which is a fifth of the budget for the food shortfall!!

To show our gratitude, we did a photo shoot for them, featuring (what else?) the Congo pants, and stylish 100 percent organic cotton T-shirt. The pants were modeled by Brian, and introducing our female models: Waka (licking Brian's head), Sake (peeping between Brian's legs), and our very own Kata (fishing around in Brian's pocket).

Like Tyra says on "America's Next Top Model," "Find the light, girls, find the light."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Apple a Day

OK adopted moms out there, here is Lukuru eating one of Brian's experiment apples. They cost $6 each, so you can imagine how thrilled he was about it ... but I didn't care - I was giving everyone apples to help them with the vitamins!!

We still need donations for bonobo food - please help if you can. or

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


We are roaring along on our food donations and are now up to a total of $11,348 for the $33,000 short fall. We've also had some larger sponsorships, so I'll send those through shortly!

Thank you to Stuart L., who donated $150, Our WLD faithful blog follower Dina C. who donated $140, Wendy B., Francis B., Stephani A., Lee Shane, Elizabeth Burston, and Robin Zimmerman who all donated up to $50 and finally to David Bendelman who adopted Lomela on behalf of Polina Labovskaia. You're all wonderful, thank you.

Wow, more than $11,000 in three weeks - and to think that at our Friends of Bonobos board meeting last july, we only had eight people who had sponsored bonobos!!! Thank you all so much. More update on the food situation soon. Hopefully Lomela won't have to go without bananas!!

Tea With Honey and Lemon

One of the cutest moments in the whole ordeal was the honey and lemon tea - everyone of the 60 bonobos was given warm tea with honey and lemon - we were trying everything at that stage! Masisi, another bonobo who was really sick, recovered and here is Mama Yvonne giving her honey and lemon tea out of a tea cup - tell me that's not the cutest!!!!

We still need more than $20,000 for bonobo food - please help if you can. or

Monday, April 13, 2009


Lisala was one of the bonbos who was very sick; they pulled her out of group 3 when they saw she couldn't breathe, and brought her to the vet block. She was another one of the bonobos we have known since she was small. So every day I would drive Anne Marie, the vet, nuts by asking her about 50 times about Lisala. She was on oxygen for a while, her breathing was so constricted.

But she made it and Brian figured while she was in the building all day he'd use her for the test. The test is whether Kasongo would open a door using a bonobo key to let Lisala in to share food with him. Most scientists think that only humans will give something in exchange for nothing (altruism) but Brian has an inkling bonobos might do it.

Alas for the Kasongo/Lisala trial, Kasongo unlocked the door and let Lisala in, she went straight for the food and pushed her bottom in the air so Kasongo could have sex with her while she ate all the food. I'm not sure if that's altruism. Sounds more like my study, food for sex ...

We still need more than $20,000 for bonobo food - please help if you can. or

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Just like in humans, the flu is most dangerous for little babies. Semendwa's baby was too young to make it, he got sick too quick, but Claudine and the vet Marie Laure did manage to save Chi Chi's baby, Moyi, who is hanging on to Mama Henriette below. it is always a tough choice to take a baby, you have to anesthetise the mother first which is traumatic and can be dangerous. But Moyi ended up being a happy story, he came from his mom for two nights and slept with Suzy, keeping her up all night long. Then after two days, Claudine brought him back to the enclosure, he squealed when he saw his mom, ran and gave her a big hug ... then he ran BACK to Claudine, waiting to go back to the fun place where he got all those yummy treats!!

But Chi Chi held him close. She was so happy to see him, she was hugging and kissing him, I cried (for everyone who's wondering, I actually do not cry every day willy nilly).

And something special; when Moyi was away, we went to Chi Chi's enclosure to try and find some sugar cane for him to eat. I saw Chi Chi, she was sitting huddled over, looking really sad. When she saw me, she came over to the fence, looking hard at me as though I might be hiding her baby in my pocket.

I said, "Chi Chi, I just need some sugar cane for Moyi, can you see any?"

Then she handed me a big juicy chunk right through the fence. I know, as a scientist, you can't make any conclusions, especially since if Chi Chi speaks anything, she speaks French, not English, but I took the sugar cane back to Moyi and said his mom sent it to him with hugs and kisses, just in case he could understand.

We still need another $20,000 for bonobo food - please help if you can: or

Friday, April 10, 2009

Flu Press Coverage

We're grateful to all the following media outlets who covered the story:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kikongo In Recovery

Have to be honest, I haven't been sleeping. Now the flu is over, I was going to just move on and keep going but it never happened. In the middle of the day I just start tearing up for no reason. Then there are my obsessive walks, pacing the sanctuary peering into everybody's faces to make sure there is no sign of a rerun. There isn't. But Brian, tired of all my tossing and turning and keeping him awake, suggested I concentrate on the bonobos saved by the amazing staff here. Promise I will move on soon, but I hope you won't mind me sharing a few stories.

During the crisis: Kikongo, the bonobo our student Suzy rescued in the middle of the night, is convalescing in the nursery. He is about 8 years old now, and usually in with the juveniles. After scaring us to death for two days - he was face down in the forest when Suzy found him, and she had to carry him to the vet block on her back - he spent another 48 hours being treated with oxygen while he gasped for breath. Anyway, the mamas are now keeping a close eye on him while he is in with the little ones.

It was like one of the cool high school kids just turned up at preschool - all the babies were following him around like he was a rock star, and even Kata, who won't say 'boo' to a fly, couldn't stop offering her swelling. That's her pushing her bottom in Kikongo's face. Kikongo was living it up, having sex with everyone and stealing all the milk - because he is a full head taller than everyone else.

Thank you!!

Let me just say before I start that during this whole ordeal, the response of people has been extraordinary. It was a really tough time, but just seeing all the donations and good wishes people were sending was very touching to all of us.

If you’ve just stepped into the blog, we’ve had a terrible flu here at Lola, that started almost as soon as I arrived and then at the same time I found out about a $33,000 deficit in funds for bonobo food which we are trying desperately to raise now.

Since March 27, when I started posting, we’ve raised $10,800! We’ve been overwhelmed with the response and I promise I’ll send you all certificates when the internet in Congo is good.

Firstly I want to thank Sara Gruen, the award winning author of water for elephants. She put in a big donation, and I want everyone to buy her new book Ape House when it comes out b/c it’s on bonbos. Also Sara’s son Benjamin requested that the birthday money for his 15th birthday go to the bonobos too.

Thank you to Edward C who donated $1000, Lesley D who donated $500, Shutter speed travel who donated $500, and Born Free who donated $500. We know these are tough financial times for everyone so thank you for your support.

Thank you to Jason Comeaux who donated $400, Carine Le Thanh who donated $300, Emily Homonoff and Avril Hirts who paid full adoptions for Lomela and Boyoma.

The Linthicum Family, Ian and Stacey Donnelly, Noel R, and Bruce Wilburn all donated $200, Maciej G, Kathleen O, SB Smaill, Chris Johnson and Andrea Duncan donated $150.

Thank you to Brigitta S, Brenton H, Kathy S, Sherri S, Antonio C, Mary H, Shelly Schreibman, Yukishige Kawasaki, David Wood, and Jean Opsomer for donating $100, and thank you to my sister Bronnie, who donated $100 and adopted Boyoma even though she only did it because she was drunk!

Our friends Baerbel W and Corinna M donated $70, and the following people donated up to $50. Your contributions were so much appreciated b/c together, you really made a difference:

Carole Riley
Carol Wright
Lori Laxer
Laura Boosinger
Ben Hunt
William Linthicum
Sandeep Prasanna
Molka Ghezaiel
Sharon Hilchie
arnaud boullé
Dennis Hansen
Kathy Rogers
Julia Casey
Joanna Ross
sheila lamare
Chris Johnson
Abigail Stuart-Menteth
Madeleine Lapointe-Millar
Jennifer Hawse
Pet Pal Toys
Rebecca Macintyre
Daryl Miller-Salomons
Courtney McIntyre
Helen Bourne Schmid
Angela Roberts
Avery Erwin-McGuire
edgar allen
Joshua Frank
Natacha Santos
Angelita Fair
Andrew Francis
Sharen Butrum
Vera Green
Lynn Markert
Lisa Schmeiser
Michael Clarkson
William Metz
Joseph Talmadge
Ruth Baker
Peter Langan
Jacqueline Lott
Linda Riebel
Anna C
Victoria H
Stefan M
Keith C
Dana A
Wanda H
Caryn N
Kit C
Neil B
Tonia W
Sherri S
Kevin C
Yvonne N
Michael D
Ji-in L
Theresa S1
Faye B
Sonja S
Anna M
Paul C
Alan C
Kathelinjne K
Andrea C

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

letter from our vet

here is a letter from our head vet Marie Laure to all those who offered advice and donations:

It is true that we are just coming out a a period that has been difficult for all our bonobos.

The epidemic began in the nursery on the 11th of march, several of the youngsters had a cough, runny noses but no fever.

The substitution mothers were very careful and we were able to administer an effective treatment very rapidly.

The 17th and 20th we had to isolate two youngsters born at the sanctuary and we treated their symptoms as well as putting them on a course of antibiotics. A few days later we were able to return them to their mothers. In the mean time, on the 18th of march we rushed Lodja, a young female, to the infirmary. The previous night she had shown no symptoms what so ever. Unfortunately, we were too late, the respiratory distress was to advanced.

Following the death of Lodja, the sanctuary was closed to the public for 2 weeks.

We then lost three more bonobos : a 6 month old baby suffering from severe respiratory distress (isolated too late from his mother ?), another found drowned in the lake and the last found dead in the forest.

The staff used health measures as well as close supervision of the bonobos.

Following research I believe it could be the Human Respiratory Syncitial Virus, (or CCA, the agent responsible for the Coryza or common cold in chimpanzees) this is a virus which causes simple inflammation of the respiratory tract in adults and older children.

Unfortunately, for nursing babies and immunosupressed individuals it can cause rhinitis which can then lead to bronchitis causing serious respiratory obstruction.

Many of the signs and symptoms correspond: the High contagiousness ; the fact that antibiotics didn’t resolve the problem ; the absence of fever and the respiratory symptoms.
We have not yet recieved the laboratory analysis results : this is simply a suspicion.

There is no vaccine against this virus. The only advice given is to aid the respiration of individuals using oxygen,a procedure we used for two other bonobos which we isolated and treated with success.
We also used Rocéphine.

We truly hope that we have now reached the end of this epidemic but we remain none the less very wary !
Thank you for all your advice and donations, which has proved very helpful and encourages us in our work.

Marie Laure

post flu

hey everyone, still emotionally in recovery. while the internet is good will give you an update. Semendwa's baby died on friday. everyone else was clear by saturday, sunday internet broken, so just had a chance to announce flu was over on monday.

semendwa's baby was really sad. i remember seeing him the morning after he was born. he was such a wrinkly little thin and i was so happy to see him because mimi had just died. i guess he was just too weak, being only a couple of weeks old. the worst thing was semendwa wouldn't let him go for 2 days. she just kept stroking his head and grooming him. it makes me cry jsut thinking about it.

have been prowling the sanctuary, looking obsessively for runny noses and coughs, but there is nothing.

We raised over $8,000 for the food crisis, as you know, one of our donors pulled out this year leaving a $33,000 deficit. Just so everybody knows, none of your babies are going to starve, but we need to make up the money this year so there's no shortfall.

will post the report from our vet, so you can have more info.

and here is a pic of semendwa's baby. wasn't he beautiful?

xx. vanessa

Monday, April 6, 2009

Flu is over

Hi everyone,

the blog has been behind a few days because of the internet connection. we had internet for a few days, then it cut out for a few days, then it came back on. So I was sending a batch to Sheryl in the US and she would post them over several days, then I'd send another batch etc. so i'm not sure how far behind the blog is but i think it's by 5 days or something. on all the following posts, i'll put how many days ago they happened, so you can follow the story.

But while the internet is up and working, I have to announce that the flu is over. Semendwa's baby died, making it 7 bonobos that we've lost in the last month, 4 definately from the flu, maybe 5.

I want to take the time to thank everyone who donated. we raised over $8,000 which will all go to bonobo food and medicine. We still have a $25,000 shortfall for bonobo food which we will try to make by the end of the year. I'll make sure Sheryl thanks everyone individually, but they might come up on later posts. We haven't forgotten you.

Everyone here is absolutely exhausted. but the staff have just worked so hard to save everyone, and they were saving bonobos left and right.

there will be more posts, some from the vet to talk about the exact nature of the illness, soem in response to people who think it's some kind of ebola, it's not, it's a 24 hour bug that is harmless in humans, but apparently sometimes fatal to bonobos. and all the bonobos who will be released are in QUARANTINE and have been for six months so none of them was touched.

so follow the story, and be thankful that after lodja, the nursery is ok.

much love and thanks to everyone,


Flu and Lodja

We've had the most terrible flu epidemic. Lodja died and there are so many bonobos sick. The vets are giving them hot tea with lemon and honey and all the medicine they have but the bonobos seem to fall ill so quickly. It's something respiratory, the bonobos start breathing really quickly. Everyone is so afraid.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I really needed this today. it's been so stressful with all the bonobos sick.

Anyway, was up at the nursery watching like a hawk for the slightest sign of infection and i saw Kata giving Tchhi a kiss. Kata has turned from a total drama queen into a real sweetie. she is so shy.

Claudine says march is always terrible. the sanctuary has been closed to all visitors to stop any transfer or get the bonobos sicker.

I hope it passes soon!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

ABC News on Bonobos

Oh!!! i missed it! cable in the congo, anyone??

The bottle time was at Lola!

Friday, April 3, 2009


The flu is still going strong.

At least the nursery seems safe from the flue. Katako is here with Eleke eating sugar cane in the shade.

It is so hot, it's so strange that it's a flu. it's definitely something viral. antibiotics do nothing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Please Help!

I know everyone's been waiting for news and i wish i had better news. i have never seen anything like this epidemic. it's like some kind of plague. you go down to the night building and there are 10 bonobos face down, arms spread eagle, and they can't breathe. they just breath in and out, in and out, like they're suffocating. it starts with a mucous-filled nose, but the bonobos always seem to have snotty noses, so it's a walking heart attack.

Kikongo was really sick, but he seems a bit better now. this should make everyone who has been here feel better, because Kikongo is such a character. he's one of the funniest bonobos at Lola, he likes doing armless cartwheels and running around in circles until he gets dizzy and falls over. if he dies it is just going to break my heart.

The nursery is somehow OK, but they have had it pass through two times now, and Luozi is sick, which means he could give it to everyone. i don't know how the nursery is going to stand a third round.

I spoke to Claudine today about the budget deficit. the problem is one of the foundations who has paid for the bonobo food for years has completely slashed our funding. which means this year we are $33,000 down.

I have never really asked urgently for donations. i like doing 'sponsor a bonobo for valentines day' and stuff like that, but this time Lola is really in trouble. please spread the word, and help if you can.

Kikongo when he is feeling better - please don't die!!!