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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We're here

Lola ya bonobo Sanctuary is the loveliest place you can imagine. It used to be the weekend retreat of Mbutu Sese Seko, the former dictator of the Congo who amassed a $4US billion fortune before he died. Our lodgings were his former villa that overlooks the river.

The bonobos live in a 35 hectare primary forest. It’s the last forest left in Kinshasa. There’s a beautiful lake the bonobos like to swim in when it’s hot. There are trees with fruit the bonobos like to pick as well as a delicious water plant they like to graze on. If I was a bonobo and my whole family had just been shot and butchered up to be eaten, while I was stuck in a wooden crate and sailed down the Congo River so someone could sell me as a pet in Europe, USA, or the Middle East, arriving here would feel like heaven. That’s why it’s called Lola ya Bonobo. It means Paradise of the bonobos, in Lingala, the main language in Congo.

It was so much fun arriving. The keepers made us a bower and decorated it with flowers. No one welcomes you back like the Congolese. You know so much about them and their families that coming back is like being jolted into a harsher, more beautiful reality. They were so happy to see us I nearly embarrassed myself and cried. The cynical part of me knows it's because we triple their salaries when we come. But no one works harder than they do for us, and if the extra cash makes a difference, then I'm glad.

Seeing the bonobos was great. Some of them recognised us, some of them didn't. There was lots of sex. Maya's one year old son had sex with Etumbe and Etumbe g-g rubbed with another female who then grabbed Etumbe's son and g-g rubbed him, except he has a penis and it didn't quite work. Etumbe had the most massive swelling and the young female kept sticking her foot inside it.

Tory is going bonkers, she has never seen bonoobs outside a zoo and right now she is trying to figure out all her experiments. I'm sitting on the porch enjoying the sunset and a Coke.

We have a Korean film crew here and they are interested in our studies so I'll probably be recreating experiments tommorrow.

Lomela, the bonobo from my last post is here. She made it, but only just by the look of her. It's not completely certain she will survive.

Here she is with Mama Henriette.