Rewild & Protect
We release bonobos back into the wild and protect them for the long haul. But we don't stop there.
Ekolo ya Bonobo
At Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve, we protect bonobos and their rainforest home, work with local communities to lessen poverty by providing jobs, support health care and education, and raise awareness about bonobos' role in keeping forests healthy.
A World First
This is Etumbe. She was orphaned by the illegal bushmeat trade. Unlike most bonobo orphans, Etumbe was sold to a biomedical laboratory instead of a pet dealer. She was sentenced to live in a cage for the rest of her life.
But Etumbe escaped that fate because our founder, Claudine André, worked for years to free her. When Etumbe finally arrived at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, she delighted in simple pleasures -- climbing a tree for an afternoon nap or cracking open palm nuts in the sun. Most of all, she was happy to be with other bonobos, and, eventually, to cradle her own baby in her arms.
Gentle and loving, Etumbe became a leader in her group. Then, after years of planning, in 2009 Etumbe became the matriarch of the first group of bonobos to ever be returned to the wild.
Land of the Bonobos
Ekolo ya Bonobo means "Land of the Bonobos' in Lingala, the predominant language of the DR Congo.
Here, we have released bonobos - twice! The most recent rewilding took place in 2022.
Now, approximately 36 bonobos live at Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve. This 120,000-acre reserve in Équateur Province, DRC, is a protected rainforest where bonobos and many other animals and plants flourish.
Ekolo Reserve borders a river that joins the aquatic transport network in Congo. Bonobos sometimes come out of the forest and can be seen by people passing by on the river. For most, it is the first time they have seen bonobos.
Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve was named a provincial-level protected area in 2019 - the first in DR Congo.
It is co-managed by partner communities, local authorities in Équateur Province, and Friends of Bonobos of Congo.
The project is supported by The Rainforest Trust, which also supports our current effort to expand the protected area to more than 200,000 acres!
Where in the world is Ekolo ya Bonobo?
DR Congo on the world map
Equateur Province in DR Congo
We are committed to hiring local community members for project activities, and local communities are partners in planning and decision-making for the Reserve.
As long as the bushmeat trade and illegal wildlife trafficking exist in the DRC, poachers pose a threat to the bonobos of Ekolo ya Bonobo.
But we have a team of dedicated ecoguards to patrol the reserve daily. They enforce laws that prohibit hunting endangered bonobos and other wildlife.
Ecoguards also monitor the activities of the bonobos at Ekolo. They keep a careful watch over the bonobos lovingly raised at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary.
Why do people hunt our great ape cousins?
Poverty and lack of opportunity drive people to exploit the rainforests to meet their needs. Bonobo mothers and fathers are shot and sold for their meat. Their babies are often sold as illegal pets and kept in terrible conditions. When wildlife enforcement officers discover illegally held bonobos, Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary is the only place they can go for a new chance at life.