We share over 99% of DNA with bonobos, they are our closest living relatives along with chimpanzees…but still… many people have never heard of them!
Bonobos exist in only one place on the planet – in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)– a beautiful, forested but tragic country that has sadly been ravaged by poverty, corruption and war, leaving the bonobos vulnerable to human destruction. Bonobos are at risk from the bushmeat trades and deforestation, leaving their natural population in peril. A baby bonobo will cling to it’s mother until as much as 5 or 6 years old – it knows no other way to survive. So when the mother is killed for bushmeat, the orphan baby is sold off in the market to be kept as a caged pet or left to die
With its close genetic relation to us, scientists recognise the need to save this and little understood great ape. We know not yet what the need will be, but the answer to diseases and behaviours which impact the longevity of the human race may well lie with the bonobo – our closest relative. In addition, i the psychological and physiological study of a species so close to humans, that uses tolerance and peacefulness over competition and aggression, can help us to understand & improve our own society.
But the reasons to protect them are not just scientific..they are also about our responsibility to be environmental ambassadors.
Congo and the Mineral Wars
Everyone on this planet benefits from the minerals supplied by the DRC. The DRC is the world’s second largest exporter of diamonds. The chances are that if you are wearing a diamond ring right now, it may have come from the DR Congo.
The DRC is also the world’s largest exporter of Cobalt, the 10th largest exporter of Copper, and the 6th largest exporter of tin. So it’s a good bet that each of us benefits from a mineral extracted from the home of bonobos every single day.
80% of the world’s coltan exists in the Congo. Coltan is a mineral which is used in electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptop computers. Because the demand for such electronic devices is growing so fast (Gartner produce there will be 13 billion such devices by 2015 – which is more than twice the number of people on the planet), the rate of production of Coltan has increased dramatically and the price of the mineral escalated during the dot com boom. How does this affect bonobos?
Have you sometimes wondered why mineral-rich countries in the African continent are so struck with poverty? It is a long and complex explanation, but in essence, the western world’s desire for such minerals leads to corruption, which leads to poverty, which leads to over-populated areas of people who need to eat. In order to eat, they kill bonobos for the bushmeat trade.
Left alone without it’s mother, the bonobos can starve and lose the will to live . They are a highly social and empathic species – they need love
We can’t stop the western world’s desire for these items and we can’t singlehandedly stop the corruption and poverty which results, but we can help the bonobos.
Claudine Andre and her team in the DRC rescue bonobos found anywhere in the Congo . The orphans are brought back to the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary, they are then quarantined and made well by the onsite vet, and given a new human ‘Maman’ to replace the mother they have lost. The mamas raise the bonobo with loving care untill they are ready to move into a group with adults. With time, the bonobos can overcome the shock and trauma of the separation from their mother and learn to trust again.