Meet Semendwa

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Gender:

Origin:

Birth Year:

Fun Facts:

Female

Semendwa, Bandundu

1996

Semendwa is a beloved matriarch at the sanctuary!  She is a mother to daughter Elikya and grandmother to Elikya's son, Molende, born in 2019.

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Arrival to Lola ya Bonobo

This special lady came to Lola ya Bonobo many years ago from the village of Semendwa in Bandundu. She carries her history with her in her name, as is the tradition for all bonobos at Lola. When she first arrived, she had little experience with the norms of bonobo society.

 

Semendwa has an unusual rescue story. She had been kept as a pet by a man who hadn’t realized that she was a bonobo, an endangered animal species that is protected worldwide. When he came to understand the gravity of the situation, he reached out to the sanctuary and handed her over without any resistance. Like all of us at Lola, he just wanted the best for Semendwa, and he still comes to visit her sometimes. 

Natural Leader 

After Semendwa’s arrival at the sanctuary, it quickly became clear that she was a born leader. The caretakers immediately recognized her superior intelligence, emotional awareness, and refusal to be intimidated. Her compassion and attention to the needs of others has served her well as a leader at Lola ya Bonobo, and she remains beloved by all - humans and bonobos alike.

Semendwa and Kisantu two bonobos grooming at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary
Queen Semendwa bonobo matriarch at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in DRC
Matriarch and Mom

In 2005, Semendwa gave birth to a daughter, who we named Elikya ya Lola. Elikya means hope in Lingala and ya Lola indicates her birthplace. A healthy daughter for this matriarch was a sign of hope that our mission to ensure a wild and healthy future for bonobos was making progress. Semendwa's maternal instinct was beautiful to see and 

 

Elikya is now a teenager and lives in her mother's group. In the wild, male bonobos remain with their birth group for their whole lives, but females tend to emigrate from their group during their teen years. At times Elikya shows interest in separating from her mother's group, but so far, she hasn't wanted to take the leap. As a result, she continues enjoying the social clout of being Semendwa’s daughter, and remains well loved and respected by all. 

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Semendwa a bonobo wades in water reaches out toward camera, smiling. Photo by Andrey Gudkov
Global Ambassador

Fun Fact! This photo of Semendwa at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary taken by Andrey Gudkov is the most-shared photo online of a bonobo.

 

Because she started life as a pet, Semendwa learned to smile for a camera, as seen here. Wild bonobos do not share this behavior. 

When Semendwa's fans share her photo they're usually talking about being generous, kind, and friendly - the characteristics bonobos are most known for.

 

In addition to being the queen of her group, Semendwa has become a global ambassador for her species!

Find out more about Semendwa on our social media!

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