Nothing prepared Claudine for her role as a bonobo guardian. ‘My first school was the forest,’ she says. ‘I arrived in Congo with my father who was a veterinarian. He valued the chance for me to discover harmony with nature, the equilibrium between earth, humans, and animals.’
Claudine’s great loves were volcanoes, African art, and later, her husband Victor.
She ran a luxury boutique, searching for rare pieces of art, as well as looking after her five children. Later, she was dodging bullets during the civil war and looting that ravaged the country in the late 1990s.
The first bonobo
In 1993, a baby bonobo changed Claudine’s life forever. Mikeno arrived at the Kinshasa zoo where Claudine was a volunteer, without much hope of surviving. Claudine was determined to save him. And was thrown into an adventure which has never stopped.
After Mikeno, others followed. And then more. In 2002, Claudine opened the only bonobo sanctuary in the world just outside of Kinshasa. With a formidable team, Claudine’s reach extends beyond her sanctuary to the rest of Congo, tirelessly working to educate the Congolese of the preciousness of the endangered bonobo, and the danger and cruelty of eating bushmeat. Years later, Claudine has been awarded the National Order of Merit by France and the Prince Laurent Prize of the Environment by Belgium. She frequently presents at conferences all over the world, raising awareness for bonobos and ensuring the protection of their future.