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The Sanctuary

The story of Lola ya Bonobo

Claudine Andre, founder of Lola Ya Bonobo.

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.

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, the only bonobo sanctuary in the world was founded 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. .

Lola Ya Bonobo: The Paradise of the Bonobos

Lola Ya Bonobo is located at Les Petites Chutes de la Lukaya, just outside of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Founded by Claudine Andre in 1994, Lola ya Bonobo is the sanctuary of the NGO, Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC). Since 2002, the sanctuary has been located at Les Petites Chutes de la Lukaya, just outside of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lola ya Bonobo means ‘paradise for bonobos’ in Lingala, the main language of Kinshasa In 2007, Lola ya Bonobo is home to 52 bonobos who live in 30 hectares of primary forest. Friends of Bonobos are the generous people of
the United States who support “Lola Ya Bonobo” sanctuary

Read the Lola ya Bonobo 2006 Annual Report
Lola ya Bonobo 2007 Annual Report

Lola ya Bonobo is a member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance.

Why do we need sanctuaries?


Rehabilitation. Education. Reintroduction.

It is illegal to sell bonobos. Without a sanctuary, there would be no way to enforce this law. There is currently a trade in bonobos who are sold as pets in Europe, USA, and the Middle East. Mothers and whole communities are killed for bush meat and a bonobo infant can sell for US$60,000 on the black market.

When bonobos are confiscated by the police, there must be somewhere to put them otherwise the bonobos will be killed or kept in cages. With a sanctuary, not only is there a safe, rich environment where the rescued orphans can live a normal life, but some of these orphans may eventually be reintroduced into the wild.

Sanctuaries can educate the local population; the main consumers of bush meat. If sanctuaries can win over the local population to appreciate bonobos for the rare and wonderful animals they are, perhaps the demand for bush meat will decrease.
There are very few education programs about environmental protection in Congo. Sanctuaries are often situated right next to the main cities and can have a tremendous impact on education.

An extract from the presentation of Claudine Andre
at the conference of Great Apes in Malaisie, 1998

‘During my years as a volunteer at the Zoological Gardens in Kinshasa, I was struck by the important impact the animals had on the children and their behaviour. Their curiosity, their desire to learn, convinced me that direct visual contact with the animals was the best possible

Most of the population in the towns and cities of my country, The Democratic Republic of Congo, don’t have the money to visit protected animals
in the vast national parks. Without zoos and sanctuaries, the Congolese would never have a chance to see the endemic animals of their own country.

Of course, zoos are the fashion these days! But in a sanctuary, the infants who were snatched from their mothers and condemned to a life
as orphans, these infants can help educate the visitors who pass through and hopefully save the remaining wild bonobos of our country.’

Claudine Andre

(Photo Stéphane Gladieux 2006)

What happens when bonobos arrive at our sanctuary?

Rehabilitation starts with the orphans given immediate medical attention. The babies often arrive in critical condition (respiratory infections, parasites, skin disease etc...)

Keeping a baby bonobo alive is a challenge. Keeping a whole nursery in good health takes a miracle! When a baby bonobo is found for sale on the streets
of Kinshasa, an orphan of the bushmeat trade, Lola ya Bonobo of Congo mobilises the inspectors of the Ministry of Environment for the Democratic Republic of Congo to seize the orphan under the Convention International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Congolese law on the detention
of protected species. The Ministry confiscates the bonobo and sends it to Lola ya Bonobo for rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation starts with the orphans given immediate medical attention.
The babies often arrive in critical condition (respiratory infections, parasites, skin disease etc.) Bonobos are extremely fragile and their survival is dependant on rigorous and swift treatment for their illnesses (real and suspected!). Apart from the Scientific Coordinator of the Sanctuary who looks after the medical needs of the bonobos, we also have a full time nurse.

Just as crucial as physical treatment is psychological treatment. The bonobos who arrive are often extremely traumatized and we have lost more than one orphan to sheer stress. To combat this, infant bonobos are immediately given to a substitute mother who give them all the love and reassurances they need to survive. Lola ya Bonobo employs four substitute mothers who look after the infants in the nursery.

At the age of 5 or 6, if the infants are sufficiently healthy and confident,
we introduce them into a group of juveniles and adults.

Feeding the bonobos

Each bonobo eats over 6.5 kilos of fruits and vegetables a day.

Over 10 tonnes of fruit and vegetables a month…

At Lola ya Bonobo, the diet of the bonobos is mostly made up of fruits and vegetables (bananas, avocadoes, sugar cane) with protein supplements
in the form of milk, soya, yoghurt and boiled eggs.

This diet replaces the protein rich plants that are native to the primary forests of the Congo Basin that feed the wild bonobos, but are impossible to find in Kinshasa.

Each bonobo eats over 6.5 kilos of fruits and vegetables a day.

Although there are seasonal variations, the daily menu of a bonobo
goes something like this:

* 1 kg of sugar cane
* 10 bananas
* 1 small bottle of soya milk
* 2kg of vegetables (cabbage, sweet potato leaves, cucumber, corn, etc.)
* 1.1kg of papaya
* 1kg of other seasonal fruit
*200g of peanuts

The bonobos also eat a boiled egg every 2 days and yoghurt every 3 days.
Infants have a special diet made up of milk and fruit. Nutritional supplements
are also given to pregnant mothers and bonobos who are ill. The diet generally includes avocadoes, onions, bananas, as well as milk for the little ones. Since 2004, we also enrich certain adult females to nourish their fur.

The fresh food alone costs US$100 for one bonobo for a month.

We buy the fruit and vegetables (close to 10 tonnes a month)
at the local markets surrounding the sanctuary.