Endangered bonobos return to congo’s forests

9 May 2022


For just the second time in history, rare apes – rescued from wildlife traffickers – have been given a second chance of life in the wild.

Fantastic news from Democratic Republic of Congo. With the help of Born Free and after years of planning, 14 endangered bonobos have been returned to the wild amidst the lush rainforest of equatorial Africa.

Our Friends of Bonobos colleagues successfully released the rare apes, orphaned as babies when poachers killed their families for bushmeat, into the 120,000 acres of the protected Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve.

Rehabilitated at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary near capital city Kinshasa, the rewilded group include matriarch Maya and her three children. Maya was the second bonobo ever rescued by Claudine André, who founded the sanctuary in 2002. Her daughter, Friends of Bonobos’ general director Fanny Minesi, was the top prize winner of Born Free’s prestigious £10,000 McKenna-Travers Award for Conservation 2021 for her outstanding work.

“Some of the bonobos I have known since I was a kid,” she explains, “yet Maya’s place is in the forest. This is the day we have worked for, for decades. I hope our education programmes will help people realise bonobos are important for the forest and important for people, and we have to have safe places for them.”

Bonobos share over 98% of our DNA and are our closest relatives along with chimpanzees. They are the only wild ape species whose groups are led by a dominant female. The released bonobos are adjusting well – this is only the second time in history bonobos have been rehabilitated to the wild.

This year’s McKenna-Travers Awards will be launched on 7th June 2022, the 91st birthday of our beloved Co-Founder Virginia McKenna OBE.


Two bonobos in a tree eating fruit
Maya Bonobo (c) ABC