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  • Writer's pictureJeannette De Wyze

How Many Bonobos are Left in the Wild?

Why it’s hard to know

By Jeannette De Wyze

The heart-wrenching images are all too familiar:

Dead adult bonobos and starving babies, victims of poachers with a ruthless appetite for bush meat. It seems self-evident that hunting, human encroachment, and other dangers are depleting the numbers of the rarest of African great apes.

Indeed, bonobos are classified as “endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species -- considered to face a high risk of extinction in the not-too-distant future.

But how many bonobos – exactly – are left in the wild? How fast are their numbers declining? The answers to those answers are surprisingly unsatisfying.

Multiple bonobos sit in a pile while playing in a nest at Ekolo ya Bonobo Reserve in the Congo Rainforest.
Bonobos playing in a nest at Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve in 2015.