Six bonobos, a species of chimpanzee, have died from a flu epidemic in a month at the Lola Ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ten more have contracted the flu.
Located in sixty acres of forest, the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary is a place for bonobos who have been confiscated by police following attempts to sell them to pet markets in the US, Europe, or Middle East. The sanctuary provides rehabilitation for the bonobos and educates the local populace about the apes in an effort to curb hunting bush meat, one of the major threats to bonobos and apes across Africa. The center eventually hopes to reintroduce some of the bonobos back into the wild.
Bonobos are smaller than Common chimpanzees. They also sport pink lips and a black face. Behaviorally, bonobos are quite different from common chimpanzees. Whereas common chimpanzees live in patriarchal groups, bonobo groups are dominated by females. They are less violent than chimpanzees and do not engage in warfare like common chimpanzees. In addition, bonobos are famous for their sexual openness, including using sexual activity as a greeting and a way of mitigating conflict.
Bonobos are listed as endangered by IUCN’s Red List. Only found in the DRC estimates of their population vary widely, from 5,000 to 50,000 individuals. Bonobos are threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, the pet trade, the bushmeat market, and even for use in witchcraft.