Founder of Bonobo Sanctuary in Democratic Republic of Congo on "Talking Animals"

Talking Animals Oct 02 2013 12:00AM Add to Calendar

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My guest on "Talking Animals Oct. 2 will be Claudine André, a Belgian conservationist who founded Lola ya bonobo, the world’s only sanctuary for orphaned bonobos.

Started by André in 1994, Lola ya bonobo is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), providing refuge to younger bonobos that mainly have been orphaned at the hands of poachers—driven chiefly by the bush meat trade--with the aim of releasing at least some them into the wild.

Sometimes called “the forgotten apes,” bonobos are found only in the DRC, and seem to be less studied or discussed than the other great apes—gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. Yet, along with the common chimpanzee, the bonobo is the closest existing relative to humans, sharing 98.7% of human DNA.

The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior, which is also seen as a factor in the lower levels of aggression seen in the bonobo when compared to the chimp and other apes.

Here’s how bonobos entered Claudine André’s life: It was 1993, and André was volunteering at the Kinshasa Zoo in the DRC. Mikeno, an orphaned bonobo—weak and sickly—arrived at the Zoo, where, Andre was told, such bonobos routinely died.

André refused to accept such an inevitability, nursing Mikeno back to health. Soon, locals were bringing injured and orphaned bonobos to her, and not long after, she launched Lola ya bonobo.

Claudine Andre will speak with us live on "Talking Animals" on Oct. 2 at 9am ET, and listeners are invited to participate in the conversation by calling 813-239-9663 or e-mailing DJ@wmnf.org