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

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Hey everyone - it's finally here! I'm just about to move the blog to Psychology Today. But to order your copy, see where I'm speaking, or just general bonobo news, visit

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

There's still time!

Primate Palooza tonight!

Tonight, at Duke University in NC we are celebrating primates, especially bonobos.

Because bonobos get ignored back front and sideways as demostrated by this family tree:

which happens ALL the time (ironically this image was on the post "know your family tree" ) WHERE ARE BONOBOS???

So like the fat kid at school, to make up for all the times they are left out, forgotten, uninvited to the party, Claudine Andre will be coming to dedicate the evening to our long lost cousins.

If you don't come for bonobos, come for signed men's basketball memorabilia.

So if you're on Duke's campus, watch out for:

which is a lemur chasing a banana (we couldn't get a bonobo suit made in time). But come see for yourself.

Monday, April 12, 2010

almost forgot!

Brian said he spent hours with Lomela at the release site - and she's doing great!

i told him to get photos but he lost his camera (idiot) so you'll just have to take my word for it for now. will try and rummage up some photos soon...

Friday, April 9, 2010

more on the basankusu party

Just got some more photos from Suzy at the release site. She writes:

Our education program at the release site has been going great! We had t-shirts made with the Ekolo ya bonobo logo on it and had a great public parade - check out all the bonobo females in a line.

We've been keeping in close contact with local officials to tell them why bonobos are important and not to forget them! We've been broadcasting on local radio, telling them especially why bonobo females are so important to bonobo society:)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Claudine coming to America! Attention North Carolina!

Internationally renowned conservationist Claudine André will visit Duke University April 14-18 as part of the "Primate Palooza," an effort to raise awareness for our primate relatives.

André founded and runs the world's only sanctuary and release program for orphaned bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonobos, like chimpanzees, are our closest living relative and are highly endangered. However, unlike chimpanzees and humans, bonobos are the only ape that has found a way to maintain peace in their groups.

When bonobos have a disagreement with each other they tend to hug or share food instead of having a fight. Bonobos have never been observed to kill each other and females cooperate to prevent males from bullying smaller bonobos. Ironically, this peaceful ape only lives in one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been torn apart by almost a decade of war that has killed more than five million people.

André was given an orphan bonobo called Mikeno when she was caring for abandoned animals at the Kinshasa zoo during the war. She collected food from local restaurants to feed Mikeno and other starving animals while starting kindness clubs to teach Congolese children about animals. Further north, soldiers were shooting bonobos for food, and before long, she was flooded with bonobo orphans.

"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."

She established Lola ya Bonobo in 2001 in a forest just outside Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo. Since the sanctuary has opened her non-profit "friends of bonobos" has funded the visits of tens of thousands of children to the bonobo sanctuary.

In 2009, André enlisted the help of Duke students and faculty in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department to aid her efforts to release bonobos orphaned by the illegal pet and bush meat trade back into the wild.

"Having Claudine here at Duke is a wonderful opportunity to share with students and the general public the difference a single individual can make," says Duke researcher Brian Hare. "Claudine has done more for bonobo conservation than anyone else in the world. If you want to meet a conservation heroine this is your chance."

Duke's Primate Palooza will run from April 14th - 17th. The main events open to the public are as follows:

Primate Symposium: Why you need to know you are a primate
5-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 14

Duke faculty studying primates will discuss how knowing you're a primate can improve your life. Keynote speaker Claudine André will speak about her work saving bonobos and defending the world's last great tropical forest in the Congo Basin. A silent auction including Duke Men's basketball, Duke Lemur Center, and Bonobo memorabilia will be held to benefit "Friends of Bonobos."

Love Auditorium
Levine Research Science Center
308 Research Drive
Duke University
Durham, NC, 27708
Public Parking available in Bryan Center on Science Drive a short walk from Center
Contact: Kara Schroepfer,, 919-943-3482

A night with Claudine André and the bonobos of Congo
6:30 - 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 15
Durham Museum of Life and Science
433 Murray Avenue, Durham, NC 27704
Contact: Darcy Lewandowski,, (919) 220 -5429 x372

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

party in basankusu

The bonobo release had a party to celebrate the success of the release! It was a great opportunity to get the local community involved in the celebration and spread awareness...

Monday, April 5, 2010

A goodbye handshake

So my hubby Brian is a hard science kind of guy, and he doesn't usually get into the whole anthropomorphism, huggy state that i do with the bonobos.

but before he left the release site, something happened that really moved him.

Etumbe, the alpha female, came to the door before the exit. She didn't try to escape, and she had never approached Brian before. He'd been there for a week. But it was the last day, and how she knew, Brian has no idea. But she sat by the door, and took his hand, shaking it, as if to say 'good-bye, thanks for coming'.

It was just so human-like, and so touching. Brian hasn't stopped talking about it since.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What's a bonobo?

Beni at the release site

My husband Brian was just at the release site, looking at the potential to do long term studies there with the released bonobos.

He followed some of the released bonobos for a while, which was a nex experience for him because usually, he's on the other side of the fence - in fact Brian's never been in the same space as a bonobo bigger than a 5 year old before.

Anyway, Beni, who he always plays with was there. The trackers were discouraging contact but Beni wouldn't have anything of it! He lay on his back and started laughing, which is the cue for Brian to start tickling him. Brian didn't want to make contact, since the bonobos are in traiing to be independent from humans, but Beni woulnd't let up, he just lay on his back on the ground, laughing hysterically in anticipation that Brian would start tickling him...

Brian said it was just about the cutest thing he'd ever seen...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

back online

Hi everyone,

sorry i was offline for so long, leaving you with no updates on the bonobos! i had a small medical issue and i took a while to get better but i'm back online.

Also, i started another blog at Psychology Today:

I think it's a great opportunity to bring bonobos to a wider audience, so I'm happy they invited me to be on the blog roll.

and i'll be linking there posts to this blog, hope you guys don't mind. Today's is:

have fun reading!

Monday, March 1, 2010

a little dip

Temperatures at Lola can hit 90oF with 100% humidity. Here is Manono, our Olympic swimmer having a little dip

photo: David Reid

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bigfoot has hair

Not sure if you remember the furore of the bigfoot photo
where someone actually took my photos and entered it into a bigfoot competition! but now the original bigfoot, Bandundu, has finally grown some hair. Which is lucky b/c now her baby has something to hold onto!
photo: David Reid

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

smelling the lilies?

I always love photos of the photos with the lilies - they look so romantic - liek htey're just inhaling their faint heady scent. But actually it's the scene before they chomp them up - which doesn't look so romantic - petals shredded everywhere. I've heard of bonobos foraging for pith (the bit inside the lily stem)- that ties into Richard Wrangham's theory of the aquatic ape. And bonobos do hae a bit of webbing between their 2nd and 3rd toe.

But I haven't heard of them eating flowers before...

photo: David Reid

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bisengo the little prince

This is little Bisengo, who I have known since he was born. He is the perfect example of an alpha bonobo. So we usually say that the females are in charge of bonobo groups, but actually it the babies - especially a little prince like Bisengo who can get anything he wants! If there is a grape within even 10 feet of Bisengo, it's his, no matter who else is around!

Bisengo is quite a little climber - maybe a prime candidate for the release project?

Friday, February 19, 2010

David Reid

I have some photos I've been meaning to post from David Reid who went to Lola a few months ago. I've post them all over the next few weeks!

This is Makali, a bonobo rescued from a biomedical centre. He has somethign to say!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Noki and baby...

Noki and her baby are in wonderful health! they've been released into the enclosures. Noki is nursing her baby well and protecting her from slapping branches and the sun. but she is also very proud and loves to show the baby to the other bonobos!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Noki & Val

ooo - i got this photo from Val when Noki just arrived at Lola. Val is a volunteer at Lola - and has been for 15 years. She works practically full time handling Lola's accounts - the sanctuary wouldn't run without her. She comes in to Lola almost every day, for no recognition or reward other than helping the bonobos. We love you Val! and look at little Noki and those huge black eyes.

and then here is Val helping Noki give birth - 10 years later!

we share so much with these bonobos, they become so much a part of our lives. Val has been sending photos like crazy - she is a very proud grandmother.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Noki's baby

Ok back to Lola now and I'm a little behind on all the news - but Noki had a baby!!

Noki is one of the cat burglers at Lola - she is also a prolific tool user - which bonobos haven't been seen to do in the wild, fyi. once she used a long stick to steal my camera bag.

noki is also one of the smartest bonobos in all the experiments we do - she is so wildly interested in all the tests and sometimes we have trouble getting her out of the testing room!

now she has a baby!!

Fanny the vet was there for the whole thing, and so was Valerie, who was there when Noki was first rescued...

ooo, there are just baby bonobos everywhere, they make me so clucky!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lola's bonobos in the news!!

It's a great week for bonobos in the news this week and these very bonobos were from Lola!! This is the work Tory (Victoria) was doing in Lola in 2007 with the drool...

i like this one better than the cannibalism story...

Peter Pan ways make bonobos the most amiable of apes

Bonobos are the Peter Pans of the jungle. The amiable apes hold onto their youthful ways far longer into adulthood than chimpanzees, while some childish traits never vanish, a new study shows.

This difference may explain why bonobos are less aggressive and more social than chimps, says Victoria Wobber, a primatologist at Harvard University...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

one more...

ok, just one more pic of Lukaya being a good mom!! when bonobos spend too much time with humans, they tend to reject their young. we had that problem with Mimi, who lived with a human family for 15 years, and rejected every one of her babies.

we're not sure how much time Lukaya spent with humans before she made it to Lola, but it can't have been too long because she is a wonderful mother! Of course, she does have Etumbe to look up to!

Look at Lukaya shielding her baby from the sun! I can't help but feel proud of her...

Bonobo cannibalism?

Hey everyone, check this out:

Wild bonobo mother ape eats own infant in DR Congo
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

A wild bonobo has been seen cannibalising her own recently deceased two and a half-year-old infant

this result is amazing.

nothing like this has been ever been seen like this before, that I know of, but Gottfried's work is excellent, so this is super exciting. just last year they saw meat eating in bonobos, which had also never been seen before.

i wonder if the infant was killed by a high ranking male.

we've never seen anything like this in the sanctuary. the last time I saw an infant die, the mother held onto it for days and the keepers had trouble taking the body away.

results like gottfried's illustrate the complexity of bonobo social behavior and the necessity of further research on thee amazing creatures.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nsomi & Motema

Nsomi, the first born at the release site, is quite fascinated with Motema - the latest addition to the release group.(I just love Nsomi's little face btw... i just want to pinch those cheeks!!)

Nsomi is always touching Motema, softly patting her head or gently stroking her face.

Hopefully the two will become fast friends and look out for each other in the wild forests of Congo.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lola's bonobos in the news!!

This just came out in New Scientist. Not only was the work done by our research group, but it was also done at Lola!

Don't forget to watch the totally cute video of Eleke and Sake! and the bonobo in the photo is Semendwa!

Sharing apes: what bonobos have in common with us

If you were drawing up a guest list for an animal dinner party, sex-mad bonobos might not be your first choice, especially as they have recently been shown to cannibalise their own offspring.

But at least they will share food with strangers.

Till now it was thought that humans were the only primates to share food in this way. Chimps, for example, won't do it. But Brian Hare of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and Suzy Kwetuenda of the Lola Ya Bonobo refuge for orphaned bonobos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have now shows that bonobos will also "freely" share.

Read the rest of the article here:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

little Motema

Just wanted to take a moment to celebrate that the bonobos at the release site are going so well!! 2 babies!! it's absolutely wonderful.

Both the ladies Etumbe and Lukaya were pregnant before they went to the release site and the fact that they gave birth so effortlessly just goes to show how well they are adapting to their new home.

Next step - a real wild baby - conceived and given birth at Ekolo - that is the sign that a release project is REALLY successful - that the bonobos are reproducing.

fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

release site: from Zannah

The village people are being very positive for supporting the project. when i was there, the villagers oragnised their own 'welcome' party for Suzy (who is running the release site at the moment), they all came, drums, dancing and singing, to celebrate the coming of Suzy. They were generous in giving lots of presents, such as sugar cane and chickens, something especially touching when it comes from people with so little

Friday, January 29, 2010

release fruit from the zannah

The bonobos are becoming quite the foragers in the forest!

Here's some of the fruit bonobos eat there. They love these red fruits, Tondolo! They find them in the forest too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

lomela - From Zannah

All those anxious Lomela mothers - here is some news from Zannah:

'Here's just a few more pics- one of your favourite little forest lady Lomela. Lomela is on great form up there. When she arrived she was pretty nervous, it was a big change! But now she's grown much more confident. But she understands about not approaching people anymore, she respects distance. But its a bit of a different story when she's up in the trees, there she really gets picks up her cheekiness, selecting appropriate branches and leaves to shake, there is always a shower of debris when Lomela is above you in the trees!'

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Second baby bonobo born at the release site

It's a girl!

this is from Gladez, our UK volunteer:

Lukaya gave birth to a healthy little female on the 9th of January 2010! Second baby for Ekolo ya Bonobo, and first baby of this new year! "Motema ya Ekolo" (the heart of Ekolo)

Of course within days her head had already been plucked of all its beautiful little hairs and now it has spread to full body!!! But Lukaya is a great mum, letting her daughter suckle as much as she wants and in fact the first few times I saw her that was all she was doing!

The other bonobos are doing well, Etumbe and Lukaya stay close to one another. For walks in the forest the group had slowed down to Lukaya's new rhythm as she had to hold the baby with one hand when she walked, this led the trackers on very slow walks which basically where a large arch around the enclosure from morning to evening, but now the baby is nice and strong and holding on tight so the pace has picked up again! Little Nsomi (Etumbe's baby) is growing day by day, curious as to this new little friend. She is starting to eat the beya shoots, and particularly enjoys taking them from her mothers mouth.

Here are photos of Lukaya and Motema, as well as one of Nsomi, who is just too cute even though she has no hair!!!!



Monday, January 25, 2010

Mama Claudine

Claudine, for those of you who don't know, is the heart and soul of Lola. Born in Belgium, she has lived in Congo since she was 3, and she is known throughout Kinshasa for her fiery red hair.

I have never in my life met a more selfless, kind, dedicated person. She is an inspiration. That's all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

new baby...

ok, i'm a bit out of the loop - Lola has a new orphan and I don't know their name! Or their story! Have written to ask, even thought I know her story will be the same as everyone else's story - her mother was shot by poachers, and she was taken from her mother's body to be sold, either in Congo or int eh black market to US, Europe, or the Middle East.

The ministry confiscated the orphan and sent her to Lola, where she now has a new chance.

Isn't she adorable! i just want to hug her!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

kinshasa the bush baby grows up

Does anyone remember Kinshasa? You can read the posts about her arrival and various antics here: (scroll down past chuppa chups)

well Rob Leyland from the British Embassy has sent photos!! and she looks so beautiful and big!! I just love seeing the bonobos grow up year after year.

Kinshasa just had an unbreakable spirit. who knows what she went through after she lost her mother and was kidnapped from the forest - but from the minute she arrived at Lola, she was just so full of life and joy - so different to some of the orphans that arrive that take months of rehabilitation!

she is soooooo beautiful!!! even if she did make me chase her round the sanctuary for hours!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Gosh, I don't know if i've had time to announce our new vet - Fanny! It's really hard to find a great vet who wants to live in one of the most dangerous countries in the world and take care of a bunch of 60 hairy orphans, so Fanny is just a gift.

It is a little known fact that bonobos prefer human women to men. God knows why - maybe because it was almost certainly a man who shot their mothers, but even the new born babies who were not orphaned seem to prefer women to men.

The difference in their attitudes is just extraordinary. A male vet just has such a time sneaking up to the bonobos with needles and creams and medicines - the bonobos always seem a little suspicious - but with a woman - they are completely different. As you can see, the bonobos just seem to melt when Fanny is around. Doesn't hurt that apparently she is georgeous!

yay for Fanny! thanks for helping the bonobos!

Friday, January 15, 2010

are chimps so bad?

Blackbird wrote:

'I like bonobos as much as the next thing, but, why demonising chimps at the minimum opportunity? True, chimps occasionally kill other chimps, but this is not an everyday behaviour. Male chimps hunt, but then there is sharing between the hunters, and also meat is given to females. Chimps have also been observed to share tools for nut cracking. I find that the constant demonising of chimps does no good to this blog. It is like humans where referred as murderers constantly.'

It's true Blackbird - I am guilty of playing this up, and maybe I go overboard. I love chimpanzees. I worked with them before I even knew what a bonobo was, and just like us, they are capable of love, kindness, grief - and all the other 'higher' human emotions.

But what I get sick of, is people just knowing about bonobos for their sexual behavior. The point I'm trying to make (perhaps unsuccessfully) is that bonobos are so much more than a horny version of a chimpanzees. Because chimps, for all their good points, still share the darker side of ourselves. Bonobos, despite being as closely related to us, as chimps, have managed to find a way to live without war, murder, and infantacide. And that is what makes them so special, not penis fencing or g-g rubbing.

The other reason I keep harping on the potential of murderous violence in chimps is that PEOPLE IN THE USA STILL WANT TO BUY ONE AS A PET. Chimps, to most Americans, are the cute little 3 year olds dressed up in clothes on television, not the 200 pound adolescents who will happily tear your face off. I have worked with chimps for almost 10 years now, and I can tell you that there is a rage in them, especially in adolescent males, that is sometimes impossible for them to control.

This doesn't mean they aren't special, wonderful creatures worth saving - just other animals with predatory streaks, like tigers or lions. But this side of chimpanzees is so often ignored that I wanted to make sure people are aware of it.

But I've probably been leaning too heavily to one side, so I'll try to be more balanced in the future...

And just to prove it - here is Tatango (the bonobo) in a magnificent, angry charge!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

i love the wet season...

these photos were taken by Rob Leyland from the British embassy when it was pouring during the wet season. I love the wet season coz everything looks so lush and green - but i'm amazed rob snapped these pics and still didn't get his camera wet - when it rains, it really really rains. it's like being at the bottom of the waterfall.

here are some randoms, of the bonobos enjoying the lush greenery...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

opala - the alpha of all alphas

i realise i've never said much about opala, because she is so hard to photograph, so i'm very grateful to Rob Leyland from the British embassy for taking these photos!

Opala, is the number one top dog of group 1. She is one tough cookie, and belies the concept that bonobos are supposed to be peaceful! i have seen her chase petit bonobo garcons right up trees, screaming, and occasionally one of the big males.

Look at her face - does it look like a face you want to mess with?

Even though Opala may not be a nice alpha, the important thing is that she IS an alpha. There are so few female-dominated societies. Hyenas are one, but female hyenas are as beefed up as the males, and they also have penises. Female black widow spiders eat their mates, but they are four times bigger.

And even though Opala may be a biatch (i can say that, right? Tyra banks says it on her show) she doesn't kill anyone, like a dominant alpha chimpanzee, and even the not so dominant chimps. So let Opala chase the little boys up trees, as long as instills a healthy respect for girl power and stops them from growing into big bullies.