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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Bonobos

Who's that bonobo baby? Meet Diyoko

This handsome guy has been with us since February 2020, when he was rescued by our trusted partner in the field, Héretier Mpo. Before we found him, Diyoko was being kept illegally as a pet in Lodja. Thanks to our efforts to increase awareness about bonobos, members of the local community alerted Héretier, who convinced his owner to voluntarily surrender the baby bonobo.

Even after being rescued, Diyoko was in danger of dying of emotional neglect. Baby bonobos can’t survive very long without the love and affection of their mother, and Diyoko was becoming very stressed while waiting for the next flight to Kinshasa. His new bonobo companion, Welenge, was able to provide some social support, but little Diyoko was feeling a lot of trauma. Distraught, he started lashing out, attempting to injure himself and others. Héretier wasn’t sure he would survive the 10-day wait for a cargo flight, so the team at Lola came up with a creative solution to save his life - if he couldn’t make it to the mamas, they would send one of the mamas to him!

Nursery manager Mama Yvonne was able to get on a passenger flight to Lodja and make it to Diyoko in time. In the meantime, Welenge, who was in desperate need of medical attention, was able to get a single spot on a cargo flight.

Mama Yvonne spent a week getting to know Diyoko, gently and slowly building an emotional bond with the scared baby boy. She also showed Héretier how to provide this emotional care and affectionate treatment, in case he ever needed to use it with a future rescue. Diyoko’s fear and aggression quickly diminished with the love of Mama Yvonne, reminding us that sometimes all a body needs is a little bit of kindness.

Finally, Mama Yvonne and Diyoko were able to fly to Kinshasa, and Diyoko made it safely to Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary. Our veterinary team was able to treat his external injuries, but it was apparent that Diyoko was still suffering from lasting emotional trauma. To help with this, we paired him with one of our gentlest and most loving surrogate mothers, Niclette Bonyoka. Diyoko quickly bonded with his new human mother and began to grow more comfortable in his new surroundings. After several months at Lola, this shy little guy had adjusted well and started to make friends with his new brothers and sisters in the nursery.

Today, Diyoko has made remarkable progress. He's come a very long way from being the fearful and aggressive bonobo we rescued in February 2020. Diyoko now runs and plays happily with his nursery-mates without a shadow of fear or sadness. He remains closely bonded with Mama Niclette, and she tells us that he goes bananas for his favorite foods, matembeles and pondolos.

In a very happy ending, Diyoko has settled in well at the sanctuary and grown to love his new family. We are so grateful to have found this special little boy, and we hope someday he may be a good candidate for reintroduction to the wild!


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