This blog has moved!

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

new years resolutions...

it's coming up to that time again, and i hope you've all got your new years resolutions ready!Personally, i'm going to try and lose all the (*&^^ weight i put on at thanksgiving and xmas - seirously whose dumb idea was it to have TWO food oriented holidays within a month of each other?

the nursery won't be staying up till midnight this year, they have to be in bed by 8 like every night, but i did get a little whisper of what they wanted to work on...

boyoma: i will not pick my nose in public

Lomela: more hugs!

Lukuru: grow bigger so no one steals my bananas

Masisi : bridge the divide between species - dogs have feelings too!

kata: change what? i'm perfect!

adopt a bonobo!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Brian & Alan Alda

A little while ago Alan Alda did an interview with Brian (hubby) at the NC zoo. The zoo doesn't have any bonobos, so Brian had to make do with chimps, but he shoved them in the interview anyway. The PBS special will air next year, will keep you guys updated for an airtime!

ps. for those of you who don't know who Alan Alda is, give you a clue - Hawkeye - M*A*S*H

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A merry xmas from us...

Thank you to everyone who has donated to us for Christmas. This December we've raised $1500 - our biggest month of the year!

From everyone at Lola, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Especially in these times of economic turmoil, we know it's an especially tough Christmas. That people can still give to others, even in tough times, restores our faith in humanity, and gives us hope for the future.

To tell you all the truth, it's been tough for us to raise money in the US. Unlike almost any endangered species, not many people even know what a bonobo is, much less that they're our closest living relative and the most endangered ape in the world.

If you're a last minute shopper, like me, it's still not too late! give a donation or adopt one of our bonobos for you or someone else and you'll receive a certificate and our newsletter! All donations are tax deductible!

So once again, thank you. I would especially like to thank the following people, who have giving generously this year. A special squeak for you all from the bonobos at Lola!

Sherri Schroeder
Yukishige Kawasaki
Neil Brooks
Ian & Stacey Donnelly
Gemma Ellis
Paul Gartland
Steven & Dora Gomez
Marie Haroon
Jennifer Jefferson
Lisa Recht
Nelly Schm├╝cking
Edward Wobber
Christine Cichetti
Dorraine Job
Barnaby Ohrstrom
Maite Giraud
Jade Lee
Georgia Harley
John & Bretta Fox
Sara Gruen
Sarah Shimko

Theresa S
brigitta s
Maciej G
Annette R
Theresa S
Kevin C
Baerbel W

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

avoid xmas crowds - donate to charities!

There's nothing that sets my teeth on edge more than xmas shopping. I hate everything about it - the lines, the crowds, and most of all, the pressure of spending too much money on gifts i know people are going to chuck to the back of their cupboards. Of course if I was like my mother and did all my xmas shopping in October, I wouldn't have a problem, but the fact is, it's the 17th and I haven't set foot in a store and I know it's just going to get worse.

I'm all in for showering kids with fairy dresses and toy trucks, but for friends, family, and inlaws, Brian and I are taking a different tack this xmas.

We're donating to charities: the moon bears (all those stories of draining bear bile makes me so sad), the Catholic Relief Service, offsetting our carbon, and of course Lola.

The average US family spends $1000 a year on xmas - although with economic downturn, this year it's more like $700. I think Christmas is about giving to those less fortunate than ourselves, which then gives us a chance to be grateful for what we have.

So if anyone wants to avoid this

by giving this

go to .

Friday, December 12, 2008


just got a photo of little lukuru! Here she is!

it's quite an improvement if you think about what she looked like a few months ago.

Anyway, she's a fiesty little thing. I remember even when she was almost too weak to move she'd bite my finger if i came too close to her mama Henriette - imagine a tiny thing like that having the courage to bite a creature 50 times bigger than her to defend her adopted mother! The mamas say she's only gotten more courageous and that she's goign to be the alpha of the nursery before too long

Watch out Vanga!

Adopt a bonobo for xmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

news from the nursery

kata threw a corker of a tantrum yesterday, because Mama Esperance didn't give her milk before Lomela. Lolo tried to make up for it by hugging Kata with one hand and chugging her milk with the other, but Kata wasn't having any of it and screamed so loud the mamas 'thought she would die'.

Masisi is still looking after Sandoa who is getting stronger every day. she laughs and smiles a lot more but the mamas would like her to put on a little more weight.

Lukuru is turning out to be stronger than anyone thought possible - she clocked His Royal Highness Vanga one when he tried to steal her orange.

On the newborns, Kisantu's baby boy is called Nkumu, which is Bakongo for 'prince'. And he is indeed a little prince, his squinty little eyes have a royal air about them already. Grow strong Nkumu, you're our hope for the future!

It's not too late to adopt a bonobo for xmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sheryl's worried...

One of our favourite adoptive parents, Sheryl, said about the post 'happy thanksgiving':

This is where my animal rights ethics and wildlife conservation interests do not mesh. I believe every individual is important, and that sacrificing some for the good of the species is wrong. Personally, I’d prefer a well-armed patrol to protect the bonobos who are going to be released. This plan makes me queasy.

I understand how you feel, sheryl, and believe me, it is going to be tough to see any of the bonobos die, and some of them will. But we have to find a way to successfully release bonobos. we can't wait until they are all almost dead before we figure out a way that works.

I also used to think armed protection was best, but how do you protect an area that's 20,000 hectares? You'd need thousands of men and even they couldn't do it. How do you stop them using their guns to shoot other animals? Congo is crawling with armed men, and none of them have any qualms about using guns to extort the local population. And once you bring guns into it, you risk killing people, and this leads to village wars.

The people who know the land are the Po. The people who have the most to win from the bonobos surviving, are the Po. If you bring guns into it, then people will die, and in a country so rife with violence, let's try the peaceful way first.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Claudine in the House of Lords!

Our director and founder, Claudine Andre, has just won the inaugural Badham-Evans Award for Women’s Commitment to Wildlife from the Twycross Zoo in London!

She was presented with the award at the House of Lords in London, and heaps of famous people were there, including Susannah York, Stephanie Powers and Miranda Richardson, each of whom helped draw attention to Andre’s work and the bonobo’s plight. Richardson, who I think we all remember for her performance in Merlin said: “Claudine’s dedication to these animals is remarkable. It is now our responsibility to join her efforts.”

The Badham-Evans Award was named after Twycross Zoo founders Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans, and will “honour other women who have committed their lives to caring for and saving wildlife worldwide.”

Claudine has survived civil wars, economic strife, and personal danger to protect bonobos, one of the rarest great apes in the world. She created the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in 1994 with one bonobo and we now have 63 orphaned bonobos at the 75-acre site near Kinshasa.

We love you Claudine! You are awesome!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

happy thanksgiving

orf. i would have posted this on time, except i was too busy scoffing turkey and then lolling on the couch in a tryptophan induced slumber.

news at lola is that the agreement between the Po and Lola ya Bonobo has been signed! a 20,000 hectare area near Basankusu is now officially the sitefor the bonobo release next year!

For those that don't know, this will be the world's first bonobo release. Every other great ape species has been reintroduced into the wild, except bonobos. Even though we could lose as many as half the animals we release, it's important to do this now so we can figure out a way that works, rather than leave it until we have the very last bonobos and THEN have to figure out how to release them.

Some of you have been curious about why we haven't already released all the bonobos back into the wild. It would save sanctuary running costs of $300,000 a year, and the bonobos would be better of the wild, wouldn't they?

The truth is, reintroduction is very risky. First you have to make sure the area is safe, and the bonobos you release wont be hunted and killed as soon as you let them go. Then you have to keep feeding the bonobos because the years they've spent in the sanctuary means they won't be able to find all their food. The area has to be large enough to have the feeding requirements, and isolated enough that they won't keep running into the nearest village to steal food from humans.

The site near Basankusu is perfect. The local Po community has agreed to become guardians for the bonobos, which will provide much more protection than hiring men with guns. The forest is full of fruiting trees and there are no other bonobos that will be in competition for resources.

Our vets are at the release site right now to sort out the logistics of how they'll manage the bonobos, where to hold equipment, facilities for medical emergencies, etc.

Watch this space for new developments.

sponsor a bonobo!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

bonobos in pants?

I had a chat to the lovely Andy Dunn of Bonobos yesterday, who, get this, does pants.

Brian was given some for his birthday, and unlike the usual American fat pants, these pants actually make Brian's bum look hot. This was Tatanga's face when he saw Brian in Bonobos this summer, who we all know had a little crush on Brian already...

So seeing as these totally cool pieces of wadrobe carried the name bonobos, I emailed Andy and asked if he'd be interested in becoming a sponsor. Who immediately rang me, and said yes, absolutely and even though they are still a new company, gave us a generous donation and sponsored all three bonobos, Lomela the charming, Kata the drama queen and Boyoma the terror.

So since our store doesn't have pants, if you want some that are stylish, affordable with the coolest name possible, visit They ship in 2 days (heaps of time for xmas!) and they have a no hassles return policy. Let's help these two charming boys get their company started.

I just bought Brian (what else?) the Congos for xmas. The palm frond lining cracks me up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bonobos for Christmas!

For all the anxious adopted parents out there, here's the latest. Boyoma, shock horror, has totally calmed down. He has gone from being a royal terror, to being everyone's friend. He has stopped picking his nose and beating up on smaller bonobos - he's hardly recognisable! I hope he doens't change too much - I'll miss the old Boyoma!

Lukuru is good but still small, she's eating and drinking fine, and trying not to be jealous of Sandoa and Masisi, who has adopted the new orphan, just like she adopts dogs and chickens. Lomela is the sweetheart of the nursery, but growing huger by the day - she'll be ready to graduate to group 3 soon!

But the big news is - we have new items in our shop, just in time for xmas! now you can give gifts and support your little infants over in bonobo land.

There's the all new organic cotton T

Maternity shirts for sexy bonobo mamas

And even something for the little ones.

Visit the shop - and order now!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

fighting in the congo - what this means for bonobos

I've had a few emails about fighting in the Congo and whether it will affect the bonobos. From what I can gather from the news, the rebel leader Nkundu is staging his own personal war in the east. Nkundu, FYI was a contender for the presidency of Congo in 2006, and when he wasn't on the final ticket, he took off east where he's been opposing the government ever since.

Of course no war will be good for the bonobos. Part of the problem is that the soldiers aren't usually paid, which means they hunt in the forest. There is no way to tell exactly how many bonobos will be killed. We do see a spike in orphans arriving at the sanctuary after a war, either because the soldiers aren't hungry enough to eat the infants or because they are so hungry they are hunting more than usual.

Having said that, the region of the fighting is not where the highest concentration of the bonobo population is, which is more in the middle than in the east. So we can hope the bonobos will remain unscathed, but I don't think this is very likely.

Monday, November 17, 2008

bonobos in an MRI?

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the protocol is these days for doing research into bonobo neurophsyiology, if there is one - has protocol been developed for, example, doing MRIs on these animals while still maintaining their freedom? Have bonobos from Lola Ya Bonobo been subjects in research beyond simple behavioral research?

Part of why I ask is because I want to research the physiological basis of intelligence, and I think an important part of intelligence research is research on our relatives, but certain ethical rules are in place, well-deservedly, to maintain the health and wellbeing of non-human primates. What kinds of experimentation would be okay under current ethical standards for using primates?

who are you and what kind of funding do you have? if you have say, squillions of bucks, can fly an MRI machine to Congo during on of the bonobo health checks, sure! the application procedure is right here

They've done this at Emory before, with bonobos. Bill Hopkins did the research.

Of course you have to get the bonobos when they are asleep or anethestised. like this...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm back!

oooo, the beach was so lovely. now i am a nice caramel colour while my hubby who had to stay home is a pasty fish belly white.

Anyway - thanks for being patient, I had some interesting questions on bonobo handshake so I thought i'd answer them:

African Safari Stories said...

Hello there.

Is it true than the bonobo is the only creature other than man to have face to face intercourse?
October 28, 2008 8:06 PM

As far as I know ASS, they are. That's because, like humans, bonobo female vaginas are ventrally orientated (facing towards the stomach). Most other female animals have vaginas oriented towards the rear which facilitates, umm, doggy style. so it's easiest for both bonobos and humans to have sex face to face.

having said that, hubby aka famous Dr Brian Hare, says he has seen brown capuchin monkeys doing it face on. which means other animals probably do it to but not as frequently (or as comfortably) as bonobos and us.

Here is some face to face action.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


hallo everyone! i am on holidays on the beach in australia. i thought i could blog from here but i can't because the sea water plugs up my ears and sand gets in my keyboard. no seriously, there is no internet down here, i am stealing the internet from someone's unsecured internet as we speak so can't tarry long.

will start posting again on nov 13 when i get back.

here is a picture of Bandundu's baby to look at while I am gone:)


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sandoa meets everyone

Mama Esperance took Sandoa for a walk around the sanctuary today to see the other bonobos. Sandoa probably hasn't seen any adult bonobos since her mother was killed and the mamas like to take their babies around the sanctuary just so they can see how happy the other bonobos are and what life is like after the nursery.

Now that Sandoa is in good health it's important to look after her emotional state. i know it sounds corny, but i've seen bonobos just give up and die. they are like people in that if they can't think of anything to live for, they get so sad they can will themselves to death, even if they're in perfect health.

So the bonobo tour is to show Sandoa how the other bonobos live, and for them to recognise her. Today she saw Tchilombe with her new baby, Moyi, who is almost a year old, and then clever Likasi was cracking some nuts. Likasi went crazy when she saw Sandoa, she was calling and yelling, presenting for some g-g rubbing.... Likasi loves little females like Sandoa and she can't wait until Sandoa is big enough to come and play with her!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Here are the girls munching on some dinner. A friend of mine did a comparison between chimp babies and bonobo babies. Basically the baby chimp is at the bottom of the heirarchy. they have to give way to everyone, and learn to grovel at a very early age otherwise they get beaten up.

The bonobo baby on the other hand, is king pin. Anything Bisengo wants, he gets. He can be reaching for a grape on the other side of the enclosure, and even the big males will scamper out of the way to let him get it. Otherwise, Bisengo's mother, Maya, will get her best girlfriend, Etumbe, who will rally Chelumbe and Lisala and together they will kick the big males butt.

I was a bonobo baby because i would beat anyone up to get food.
Which baby were you? Or if you have kids, are they chimps or bonobos?

Here is little Bisengo who has just stolen a piece of mango from Keza, the adult male.

Sponsor a bonobo today!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Good news for Sandoa

Masisi & Sandoa

The results are back from the lab - Sandoa is in perfect health! Besides the deep cut around her groin where she was tethered in captivity, she is fine. The cut still has to be treated with antibiotics to prevent infection, but that too is healing nicely.

This means Sandoa was finally allowed into the nursery! After weeks of sitting on Mama's Esperance's lap, gazing at the others playing with each other, Sandoa was brought in gently to meet the others.

The first bonobo who touched her was Masisi (what a sweetheart). She walked right up to Sandoa and gently kissed her to welcome her into the group. Mama Esperance made sure there were lots of sugar cane (Sandoa's favourite). Masisi then brought over Waka, who was a little rough so then Masisi slapped Waka as if to say 'play nice!'

Masisi (left) with Sandoa

masisi gives Sandoa little friendly hug!

Sando curled up on Mama Esperance's lap and drank a whole bottle of milk. Esperance was a little worried over the past weeks since Sandoa, like Kata, took a little while before she would drink. You can see that Sandoa is still a little thin.

Waka comes in a bit tough, but Masisi is protecting little Sandoa

This last picture is my favourite - Sandoa getting her bath in the morning!

Sponsor a bonobo!

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!