Age at Arrival:
August 15, 1995
Maya was rescued in 1995 by our founder, Claudine André. Maya led a group at Lola until March 2022 when she and her children were returned to the wild at Ekolo ya Bonobo.
Getting to know Maya
Maya is the second bonobo our founder, Claudine André, rescued and brought to Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary soon after Mikeno, a male bonobo, was rescued in 1994.
For 10 years, her bond with Mikeno was strong. When other males asserted their dominance over him, Maya would intervene, coming between the males to support her friend. The staff moved Mikeno to another bonobo enclosure, hoping he would find a warmer welcome there, but he escaped and returned to Maya's enclosure. Their strong bond came to a close in 2006 when Mikeno died after suffering head trauma in a presumed fall.
Since then, Maya has shown again and again that she can bounce back from difficulties. Now a mature adult, Maya is a natural-born leader, group matriarch and a wonderful mother.
Her time at Lola wasn't always easy as she battled on and off with infections of the air sac next to her larynx. Maya had her first surgery in 1998 and in 2003 had to have her laryngeal sac removed entirely to prevent further infection down the line. Maya bounced back incredibly well after both surgeries, and after a few days of isolation each time, Maya confidently returned to her group. That is our resilient matriarch, Maya!
Although Maya didn't have a mother to teach her how to be a mom, she turned out to be a natural and welcomed three beautiful bonobos to the sanctuary. Maya has three children, Bisengo ya Lola (M, born August 12, 2005), Mayele ya Lola (M, born September 17, 2010), Ndona ya Lola (F, born January 13, 2016). Her fourth baby, Bondonga ya Ekolo, was welcomed in October 2022 after her release to the wilds of Ekolo.
When she had her first baby, Bisengo, she was protective and even nipped the fingers of other bonobos who tried to touch and play with him. After a little while, Maya loosened up and began entrusting the other bonobos to watch Bisengo as she napped.
Maya grew as a mother and leader and raised her three babies incredibly well, especially considering the adversity she faced, and lack of bonobos to show her the way.
Return to the Wild
In 2018, Maya and her children, along with the most of her group, made the move from Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary to Totaka Island. Here they quarantined and got used to a new environment and semi-wild life. Through years of plannings and rescheduling due to the pandemic and other factors, the group stayed on Totaka until March 2022. Finally, the made their way to Ekolo ya Bonobo Reserve to live out the rest of their lives in freedom. [ Learn about the historic rewilding on our blog! ]
Maya's steady leadership played a large role in the move, and it was bittersweet for the Lola staff to see her go. Ultimately, the forest is where she belongs and where she now resides, along with nearly 30 bonobos! The team is so proud of Maya's growth over the last 25+ years! From a rough start in life to returning to the wild - Maya is now the role model for other bonobos that she needed so long ago.