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Saturday, September 29, 2007

The fiery Belgian...

Claudine has arrived! She's been in Germany promoting her new book, Wilde Zärtlichkeit

She has the reddest hair I’ve ever seen. She also always looks like she just stepped out of a salon, even after she’s been up all night with a new baby and run all over Kinshasa for permits and stuff. Although she’s lived in the Congo most of her life, she didn’t know anything about bonobos ten years ago and certainly never thought she would one day have the largest population of bonobos in the world. It all started when she was given an orphan bonobo called Mike-no when she was volunteering at the Kinshasa zoo during the 1997 war. Claudine collected food from local restaurants to feed Mike-no and other starving animals at the zoo. Further north, starving soldiers were shooting bonobos for food, and before long, more bonobo orphans found their way to her.

Claudine began a sanctuary of sorts at the American school in Kinshasa. At the height of the 1997 war when Kabila troops arrived on Kinshasa, eleven bonobos slept in Claudine’s garage and every day she drove them to the American school in her SUV. Though the political situation settled, the flow of orphans did not stop, and the school was fast becoming too small.

‘I wanted a paradise for my bonobos,’ Claudine says. ‘Somewhere they would always be fed and taken care of. Somewhere they could always see the sky.’