Friends of Bonobos was founded by Claudine André, who also founded Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC).
The on-the-ground work in Democratic Republic of Congo is managed and run in the DRC, originally led by Claudine André, and now led by her daughter, Fanny Minesi, both of whom grew up in the DR Congo and have spent most of their lives there.
They are the powerhouses behind this mission and these programs - some of the most effective and comprehensive bonobo conservation work on the planet.
Friends of Bonobos Board of Directors (US)
Claudine André, Founder, Chair Emerita, Ex-officio Member | Our Founder's Story
Claudine André has dedicated her life to saving the bonobo, an endangered great ape. She began rescuing and rehabilitating bonobos orphaned by the illegal wildlife trade in 1994, founded Amis des Bonobos du Congo and Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in 2002, and orchestrated the world’s first re-wilding of bonobos in 2009. Claudine also co-founded, with Dominique Morel, Friends of Bonobos (US). With more than 25 years of success in the field, she is a globally recognized expert in bonobo conservation and habitat protection - she is the Jane Goodall of bonobos.
Claudine works tirelessly to educate the Congolese of the preciousness of the endangered bonobo, and the health risks and cruelty of eating bushmeat. She is largely responsible for raising the status of bonobos among Congolese people from unknown to among the most beloved animals. She also raises awareness globally through books about bonobos for children and adults, documentaries, a feature-length film called “Beni: Back to the Wild,” and conference presentations. Claudine’s honors include the National Order of Merit (France) and the Prince Laurent Prize for the Environment (Belgium), and an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine from University of Bern. Claudine was born in Belgium and raised in Congo, which is her home. In 2014, her daughter, Fanny Minesi, took the reins as director of ABC, the sanctuary, and the release site. Learn more about our founder.
Dominique Morel, Co-Chair
Dominique co-founded Friends of Bonobos in 2003 and has been its president ever since. She spent seven years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she met Claudine Andre and fell in love with bonobos. She was instrumental in helping Claudine André establish Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary and Ekolo ya Bonobo reserve and has also served on the board of Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo since the early 2000s. Dominique works tirelessly to raise funds from foundations and governments for bonobo protection. She has worked for Catholic Relief Services for more than two decades and is focused on emergency response in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Dominique is French and lives in Cairo.
Ashley Stone, Co-Chair
Ashley met Claudine André in the U.S. in 2013, and was so inspired she decided to travel to Lola ya Bonobo and meet bonobos in person. She fell in love and has been fighting to protect them ever since. Her background as a licensed clinical social worker focusing on the foster care system and international adoption fits well with Lola’s mission to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned bonobos. Ashley has a long history of volunteer service. For more than 10 years, Ashley has been an active, avid volunteer for Heifer International and worked as an at-large director for Heifer International’s board of directors. She also served on the Board of Directors for the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. Ashley graduated with a B.A. in psychology from Emory University and earned a Master’s Degree of Social Work from San Diego State University.
Rebecca Rose, Vice Chair, Secretary
Becky is a 30-year veteran in the wildlife conservation and education fields. As field conservation manager for the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo she oversees the zoo’s conservation grants program, which awards more than $1 million annually to projects based in 30 countries. Becky also on the board of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and steering committees for the D.C.-based Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration and the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative. Becky began working with wildlife rescue organizations in the late 1980s when she met the founders of ARCAS – a group of dedicated Guatemalans who were determined to address the illegal wildlife trade in their country by building a rescue center to rehabilitate confiscated wild animals. Knowing the important connection between wildlife law enforcement and high quality rescue centers, Becky is dedicated to supporting sanctuaries around the globe and stopping the cruel and destructive illegal trade in wild animals.
Michael Hyder, Treasurer
Mike is a relatively recent addition to the Friends of Bonobos Board. He is currently winding down a 30-year career in the wealth management industry. Previously, he spent 20 years as a naval aviator after graduating from the University of Tennessee with a BS in accounting. Ever since Mike was a young boy, animals of all kinds, and their welfare, have been a significant part of his world. He was quickly drawn to the unique qualities of the bonobos and their plight, and in recent years has become committed to helping bonobos survive and flourish. Aside from golf and yard work, Mike enjoys reading, being on the water, and spending time with his wife Annie and their three dogs. They live in Charlottesville, Va.
Mary is a founding member of Friends of Bonobos. She began a second career in wildlife conservation after retiring early from university administration. When Mary met the bonobos and gorillas at the Columbus Zoo, she found her passion – great apes! She is a member of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Board of Trustees, serves as vice-chair of the Conservation and Collection Management Committee, and chaired the Conservation Policy Committee. Mary established the Sulatalu Fund for Great Apes and supported the 2000 meeting of ape sanctuaries that led to the formation of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. She worked in MBA program management at Case Western Reserve University and The Ohio State University. Mary received her MBA from the University of Michigan and and undergraduate degree at Mills College in Oakland, Calif.
Dr. Brian Hare is a professor of evolutionary anthropology and psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Brian began studying the bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo in 2005, and together with colleagues he has published more than two dozen papers on bonobos and more than 50 overall. Brian received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, founded the Hominoid Psychology Research Group while at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and subsequently founded the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Smithsonian Magazine named Hare one of the top 35 scientists under 36 in 2007. Hare’s most recent book with co-author Vanessa Woods is "Survival of the Friendliest," based in part on research he conducted at Lola ya Bonobo.
Vanessa is a research scientist at Duke University, director of the Duke Puppy Kindergarten and an award-winning science writer and journalist. In 2010, her book, “Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo,” won the Thomas Lowell award for nonfiction, and her children’s book, “It’s True, Space Turns You Into Spaghetti” was named an Acclaimed Book by The Royal Society in 2007. Her books have been translated into 12 languages. Woods received the Australasian Science award for journalism in 2004. Vanessa is a dual citizen of Australia and the United States. She and Brian Hare married after meeting in the Congo and conducting research together at Lola. They live with their children and dog, Congo, in North Carolina.
Aleah Bowie is an evolutionary anthropologist interested in innovative solutions to biodiversity loss. She is a staff scientist and program manager at the Duke University Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine, where she studies the prevention of infectious disease transmission within and between humans and African great apes. She earned a PhD from Duke University in 2019 with a dissertation focused on the emerging field of conservation psychology. This interdisciplinary field draws from biology, psychology, and behavioral economics to explore evidence-based solutions to contemporary conservation problems.
Aleah's research covers topics ranging from examining ways to assess the effectiveness of conservation education programs in zoos and sanctuaries to exploring how messaging strategies impact conservation NGOs’ websites and campaigns. Her research at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary demonstrated the effectiveness of Lola's educational programming. Aleah has over a decade of experience working with zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, and government and academic institutions. In 2016, she created a research program at Zoo Atlanta that examines people’s motivations and norms related to their conservation behaviors, a program that now includes collaborations with institutions in China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Walter is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the department of philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He holds secondary appointments in Duke Law School and the department of psychology and neuroscience. He has served as board co-chair of the American Philosophical Association, and he co-directs summer seminars in neuroscience and philosophy.
He earned his B.A. from Amherst College and his Ph.D. from Yale University. He has published widely on ethics, empirical moral psychology, and neuroscience, epistemology, informal logic, and philosophy of law, religion, and psychiatry. His current work focuses on political polarization, moral artificial intelligence, free will and moral responsibility, and various topics in moral psychology and brain science. He is an avid golfer, enjoys blues and folk music, and loves lemurs as well as bonobos.
Karl is Senior Advisor-Program Strategy, Gender and Allyship at Planet Women and has been working in Africa for over 25 years creating opportunities for rural communities to improve their lives and the lives of future generations. He began his career living in a small village in southern Africa where he worked with local women to build a successful basketry business that provided sustainable income to over 100 families. Since then, Karl has lived and worked in over 15 countries in Africa. Through his experience, particularly in post-conflict areas, he has developed a unique set of expertise and insights into conservation, sustainable development, and gender issues.
Before joining Planet Women, Karl was Co-founder and Chief Program Officer at New Course for 10 years. He also worked at Conservation International as the Director of Africa Regional Planning and Corridor Strategies. Returning to the field, he moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo for two years while he managed and helped launch Conservation International’s on the ground operations there.
He also built on his extensive field and leadership experiences and his work with groups such as World Resources Institute and founded a consulting company called Econserve. Working across sub-Saharan Africa, Econserve projects integrated economics, conservation, and poverty reduction. He continues to work for the Green Climate Fund as a gender equality consultant.
Karl has a master’s degree in development economics from Dalhousie University and an undergraduate degree in economics from Queen’s University.
Kim Livingstone is the Wildlife Care Supervisor for the primate department at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. A native of Southern California, she has worked for the zoo for 33 years. Kim oversees the daily care and management for more than 200 primates. She is the SDZWA representative for all things bonobo and collaborates with institutions worldwide on conservation and managed care programs for bonobos. Kim met her future San Diego Zoo colleagues while on a collecting expedition to Papua New Guinea. From a young age, she has always been a free-spirited adventurer and an avid birder.
Kim has traveled extensively throughout the world and led tours, including an SDZWA expedition to the Galapagos and Peru. She spent four weeks in the jungles of Ecuador identifying and cataloging the native birds to assist in the establishment of a national park. In Africa, Kim taught ornithology classes to broaden college students' knowledge of the native avifauna and led birding tours there as well.
She is dedicated and very passionate about conservation education and global awareness of saving the earth’s endangered species, including bonobos. Kim holds degrees in wildlife care and conservation and business management.
Leah works as an environmental attorney at Husch Blackwell where she primarily focuses on environmental compliance and energy development. She appreciates environmental law as a collaborative space and works to find and develop synergies between parties leading to positive outcomes.
She holds a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law, an M.S. in Environment, Ecology, and Energy also from UNC, and a B.S. in evolutionary anthropology from Duke. It was during her time at Duke that Leah first became drawn to working with primates. She worked with the chimpanzees at the North Carolina Zoo as part of her senior thesis and was immediately captivated. Leah’s love of great apes is coupled with a lifelong passion for conservation.