Bonobos share 99.6% of our genetic makeup. But humans' closest relative is still facing extinction. This charismatic species is much more endangered than the better known chimpanzee, and yet many people have never heard of them.
Bonobos are only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where there are believed to be no more than 30,000 individuals remaining. They are under threat from every angle.
Their forest home is being continuously destroyed by logging and mineral extraction. The DRC is one of the most mineral rich areas in the world and a single tree of tropical hardwood can be worth a lot of money.
The bushmeat trade
Bonobos are sought after by hunters: new studies show that bonobo meat is the third most popular for consumption, costing only £19 per animal, and was ranked most popular for use in traditional medicines.
The pet trade
As a result of the meat trade many juveniles end up being illegally sold as pets with an average cost of £8. These babies often suffer terribly with malnutrition and having to live in awful conditions.
Hope does remain, as central Africa still includes large amounts of tropical forest. But we do not have long left as new logging and mining concessions are granted all the time, making access to the forest easier for hunters.
In country project support
We are pledging to help as much as we can key areas of bonobo conservation in the wild. To support bonobos through the pet trade we are supporting 'Lola Ya Bonobo', the only bonobo sanctuary in the world. Here bonobos are cared for by surrogate mothers and where possible prepared for release into the wild. We are also helping Awely. This programme works in the bonobos' home range to support local people. It helps them create alternate sources of protein and income and so relieve pressure on the bonobo population in the wild.
Good conservation must always be supported by good science. We are working with the Wildlife Information Network to produce an encyclopaedic wildlife volume on the bonobo that will be used by bonobo professionals all over the world. These volumes include information on all aspects of the species including disease diagnosis and treatment and captive care.
A safe captive population
Whilst we must fight to keep bonobos in their wild habitat in the DRC we have also acknowledged that we must keep a captive population of bonobos as a back up to the wild population. Twycross Zoo is the only place in the UK you can see bonobos. They live in a happy, healthy family group and are part of the global breeding programme that maintains genetic diversity.