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News from the Field

January 16, 2024

A great deal has happened at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary over the last few months, both happy and sad.

Happily, the two most recent arrivals, orphans Lombo and Lenda, are gaining strength and confidence in quarantine. Both arrived in September from Sankuru Province.


Mama Peguy takes care of Lombo, a small male about 2 years old who traveled for nine days on the motorcycle of the environmental agent who came to confiscate him from the remote forest village where he had been spotted. He's not fond of matembele (sweet potato leaves) or papaya but he loves bananas and drinks his milk enthusiastically.


As for 3-year-old Lenda, when she first arrived, she had a mouth infection, a sign of very low immunity. She would eat only matembele. But now she accepts many foods, including pineapple, mango, and avocado.


The mamas have so many babies to attend to at Lola that at first nurse Mimie Bayadila cared for Lenda in quarantine, with Suzy Kwetuenda pinch-hitting from time to time. In early January, Mama Micheline -- one of Lola's most experienced caregivers -- took over the care of Lenda.


The veterinarians report both babies are progressing well and will soon be able to join their young peers in the nursery.

Veterinarian holds stethoscope to back of baby bonobo held by human substitute mother

Dr. Jonas Mukamba listens to Lombo's lungs while Mama Peguy holds the baby bonobo. Photo: Raphael Belais

Suzy Kwetuenda feeds Lenda. Photo: Raphael Belais

Graduation Days

More good news - four bonobos passed developmental milestones and were ready to “graduate” from the nursery.


Both Bokona, a female who was cared for by Mama C'Arrive, and Lokenye, a male cared for by Mama Gladys, arrived at Lola in July 2021. Bokona's mother had died after being caught in a snare, while Lokenye was about to be sold at market when he was rescued by an ABC field partner.


Now healthy physically and emotionally, they moved to Enclosure 1 in early November. They are making progress in their new environment and meeting many new bonobos.

Two females, Loolo and Lowale, left the nursery to join Enclosure 3 in early December. They were adjusting very well, coming to all the feedings and entering easily into the dormitory at night.


Both of them have come a long way. Loolo came to Lola on Christmas Day 2021, completely despondent and withdrawn, with injuries on her hands and wrists from being tied with ropes.

Lowale had arrived in critical condition in June 2021, having been held captive in small basket. Shy and fearful at first, she eventually flourished.


Graduation is always a bittersweet time for the substitute mothers. They are sad to see the youngsters go, yet also happy to know the orphans are thriving, gaining more freedom, and getting closer to the day when they will return to the wild and the life they were meant to live.

Loolo & Lowale moving to Enclosure 3 with Huguette and Ruth square.JPG

Mama Huguette and Loolo (left) and Mama Ruth and Lowale just before the bonobo orphans moved to adult enclosures at Lola. Photo: Raphael Belais

Mama Ruth and Lowale on graduation day.  Photo: Raphael Belais

A woman caregiver carries a bonobo orphan on her hip and holds medicine in other hand

Rest in peace, Ikau

Illness in the Nursery

Sadly, a devastating respiratory illness swept through the nursery in December. Noticing runny noses in the nursery and among bonobos in Enclosure 3, the veterinarians were not alarmed at first. Bonobos are prone to respiratory illness and often respond well to treatment.


Then several bonobos in the nursery developed fevers. The vets started them on medicines and they seemed to be improving. Suddenly, Ikau took a turn for the worse. Osanga and Ikoto, the smallest bonobo ever rescued at Lola, also grew very weak.

Osanga had arrived at Lola in April 2023 extremely weak and underweight, almost as small as Ikoto, despite being about a year older.


Thankfully, within a few days Ikoto recovered and was able to return to the nursery. However, despite fast treatment and round-the-clock care by the mamas and vets, Osanga and Ikau succumbed in less than 24 hours. Blood tests were negative for flu and Covid, and the specific cause of the respiratory illness that claimed the lives of two precious babies remains unknown.

A woman caregiver holds a baby bonobo orphan on her lap

Rest in Peace, Osanga.

More Losses

Lola's caregivers are also mourning the troubling, unexplained losses in October of two young adult males, Singi, age 13, and Lomako, age 15.

Singi lived in Enclosure 2. At times he had conflicts with other bonobos and would hide in the forest for several days. So at first the caretakers were not too worried when, one day, he did not come in to the dormitory for the night. But after several days, his body was discovered in the forest. There were no visible signs of harm.

Lomako, who lived in Enclosure 3, was also found in the forest after several days. His social standing was low among the bonobos of Lola, and he was a frequent target for harassment.  In bonobo society, the social position of males comes from their mothers, so the male orphans of Lola can sometimes struggle to find acceptance in a group. This was the case for sweet Lomako. He was found with some small wounds on his fingers, but no external evidence of injuries severe enough to cause death.

Postmortem examinations that might have shed light on the unexplained deaths were not possible. They were not discovered soon enough in the hot and humid forest. Could it have been snake bites? Stress-related? A fall? The veterinarians wish they knew.

Singi Reaching Out Hand February 2023 by Franck Petit sm.jpg

Rest in Peace, Singi.

Lomako 2019 sm_edited.jpg

Rest in Peace, Lomako.


Welcome, Baby!

Amid the dark days, there are always reasons for celebration, too.


N’djili gave birth to a healthy baby boy in September.  N'djili's first baby did not survive, so everyone at Lola was delighted to see mother and baby thriving.


The baby's name is Mpico. In Lingala this means brave or warrior!

Bonobo named N'djili and her baby Mpico sitting in a tree eating pineapple
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