Author Archives: Paula

baby pic

sorry it didn’t upload last time!


New baby!

Last night, Salonga gave birth to her baby! She did it all by herself in the enclosure, we didn’t have to isolate her or anything! Everything went well, she cut the umbilical cord and went out with the rest of the group into the forest, and around 9am she came back and ate 8 bananas and 2 oranges!

We just know she’s going to be a super mom, she has always been very motherly. In fact she was always gathering frogs from the pond to pamper and smother with love – sometimes unfortunately to death!

The baby isn’t big, but has a full head of hair, and clings to his mom tenaciously. We are so happy, it’s wonderful news after the death of Malou.

Kisses from Lola,


A memory…

Thank you everyone, for your kind words, they have made me teary all over again and I have sent them to Claudine. Brian and I are just witnesses, like you. We go to Lola once or twice a year to study bonobos and learn about them. It’s the staff who need your messages, Mama Yvonne and Henriette who nursed Malou through her terrible arrival and two operations, and Jean Claude and Amos, the guardians of group three who watched over her with the other juveniles.  I will translate your words into French and send them to the sanctuary. Also Claudine, who has an extra halo and pair of wings in my eyes every time something like this happens. I couldn’t do what she does, I just don’t have the strength.

All we know about Malou’s death is that she was very sick on Tuesday. Crispin, the vet, called Michel, a French vet in Germany frantically to see if Michel could help. But by the next morning Malou had died.

Brian spoke to Crispin yesterday who said the staff are all very sad. I know all of them have a thousand stories of Malou that would break your heart, but I’m going to share one of mine that is a precious memory and at the same time a confession.

Brian was totally in love with her. I don’t think it was quite reciprocated – Malou was a little flirt with all young men, Michel the French vet was also one of her favourites. But every  time Brian came up to the nursery she would run up to him, climb into his arms and start bouncing. And he would throw her in the air, as high as he could, and she would be squirming and laughing hysterically. When he caught her, she would still be laughing, and she would bounce up and down until he threw her again.


Being very possessive over her beaus, if I came anywhere near Brian in the nursery, Malou would slap me. Seriously hard. And if I still didn’t move away from him, she would jump on my head, grab fistfulls of my hair and then jump off, using my hair as bungee ropes.

You can imagine the things I said to her.  If you’d asked me last week whether I even liked her that much, I would have called her a little wretch and said no. But I cried all day yesterday when I heard she was gone. I’m still crying. And I’m sorry I didn’t realise how much I would miss her. Or that I loved her. And I would give anything I have, anything, if the next time I go to Lola, she would be there, to climb up my shoulders and thread her fingers through my hair, preparing to jump.

Here are some photos of her. The last ones anyone will take.

Malou when she was rescued from the Russian couple who were trying to smuggle her through Paris


arriving at the sanctuary. Covered in burns from where she probably stumbled into a fire or tipped a pot of boiling water. Malnourished, dehydrated and almost dead


Looking a lot like little Lomela when she first arrived.


with Claudine a year later. by now one of the most beautiful bonobos at Lola. the mamas call her ‘La Parisienne’ and sing songs about her trip to Paris.


with her little fingers in someone’s hair like usual


meditating in group 3.


I have some very sad news. Malou died. For those of you who don’t know, Malou was the little female bonobo who was rescued at the Charles de Gaul airport in Paris. We spoke to Crispin, the vet at Lola, and he said they didn’t know what happened. She was very sick yesterday and then she just died.

Brian, my husband, was nearly crying on the phone. Malou always used to jump up and do soumersaults from his head. i used to tease him because i said he loved Malou more than me.

She was also Claudine’s Christmas miracle, she had to fight to get her from Paris back to Congo. In the end there was a telephone to Jacques Chirac, the French President and Malou was brought home. When she arrived,she was so weak and sick, Claudine thought she would die. She was covered in horrible burns and was severely dehydrated.

But she fought and she lived, and became one of the most beautiful bonobos at Lola. If you could have seen her, you would immediately have fallen in love with her impish spirit, the way she bounded towards you with mischief in her eyes, longing to play.

She was one of the most wonderful creatures I have ever met. I hope the rest of the bonobos out there make it somehow. I hope we manage to save bonobos. Because somewhere in the Congo basin, I like to think there might be another little Malou out there, with her mother living, her skin unblemished by the burns of a human fire, and smiling her impish grin.

Goodbye Malou,

We love you.


Bonobo fan

I just want to rave a little about one of our sponsors, James Brooks. James has adopted, one of our little terrors, Boyoma. Since visiting bonobos in Iowa, he has raised $1200 for the Great Ape Trust. Which is impressive once you know that he is only 10.

Yep, James raked leaves and gave up his allowance to raise money for great apes. I only wish I had been that concientious when I was 10. I think I was playing Donkey Kong all day.


Anyway, James wants me to let you know that he has made a website (can you believe it?) at

This is what he says about it.

‘It is a site for both kids and adults since not many ape websites are there for kids. There are lots of things in the Fun Stuff section I think kids will like! Try the quiz! Please tell all kids and other ape lovers who you know who might interested about the site.

Please sign the guestbook if you can!’

He signs all his messages ‘Bonobo fan’.

This one is for you, James. It’s Mwanda getting tickled:)


Tigers in the backyard

hi guys,

sorry i haven’t been posting, i’ve been so busy with this grant about our new exciting education projects, which i promise i will update you with soon. first of all thanks to  Lucia C who gave us $30 for baby bottles and toys, Theresa S who gave us $50 for baby bottles and toys , BrigittaS , Sheryl B who continue with their $10 monthly donation, and then Theresa S AGAIN for your $25 monthly donation. you guys are awesome, thanks!

yesterday i went to a public hearing in North Carolina.  There is a new law that bans the private ownership of exotic animals and the senate is trying to push it through in our state. this came because a few years ago, a little boy was killed by someone’s pet tiger.

A lot of you will probably be surprised to know that anyone in north carolina can get on the internet with a credit card and buy a baby tiger.

You can also buy chimps, monkeys, crocodiles, and any other kind of exotic animal you want, to keep in your backyard.

For example:

Of course they have to be ‘bred in america’ but we heard a woman speak at a hearing yesterday who was a journalist investigating the black market pet trade in america, and she said the ownership of exotic pets is very poorly regulated and easy to forge.


In other words, little Malou, the five year old bonobo who was caught being smuggled in a bag at the Charles de Gaulle airport, was on her way to being someone’s backyard pet.

People opposed to the bill included pork farmers who didn’t want Californians telling him what he could and couldn’t have, which didn’t really make any sense except he thought if they were banning chimps from being pets, whose to say pigs wouldn’t be next. then there were people who owned private zoos and hence bought and sold tigers, lions, chimps etc and claimed the bill was putting them out of business.


It can be hard to define why exactly it is wrong to keep wild animals as pets, as this blogger for the nytimes pointed out

but if you ever need to argue with someone who is about to buy an exotic animal as a pet, or thinks that backyard zoos are ok, here is some info taken from our statement yesterday:

First, it is a fact that domestication is the process of changing an animals DNA so that chemicals in their brains prevent them from being impulsively aggressive towards humans.  All of the animals listed in the bill are wild and cannot be trained or raised to be less aggressive.  There DNA and brains are built for impulsive aggression to survive in the wild not with humans.


Second, it is a fact that because of this aggressive temperament people who sell these animals as pets  must do so when they are adorable and harmless infants.  There customers do not know the level of aggression these animals are capable of or there strength.


Third, it is a fact that even accredited zoos and universities struggle to pay the expenses required to house wild animals humanely and safely.  The vast majority of pet owners do not have the resources to assure the welfare of their wild pet and the safety of their neighbors.


Fourth, It it a fact that ALL primates potentially carry diseases deadly to humans including herpes B, yellow fever, monkeypox, Ebola, Marburg, SIV, and tuberculosis.


Fifth, it is a fact that the pet trade is an international problem that threaten many species with extinction. Conservationists are trying to stop this trade in developing countries where people kill endangered wild animals to sell as pets at home and abroad.  But politicians in these countries point to the lack of laws in the United States and ask why someone in North Carolina can have a pet monkey or tiger but a Congolese or Brazilian cannot.  My hope is that we will set an example for the world for the humane treatment of wild animals – their very survival depends upon it.

 If you want to help, visit this website: 

Lodja education program

A few months ago, when someone said Lodja, I thought of this little impish face. lr-lodja.jpg

All the bonobos at Lola are named after a town, or a province in Congo.  As most of you have seen from the post before last, there’s been a disturbing new influx of orphans coming from Lodja, the town.

Claudine, along with the amazing Pierrot Mbonzo, have begun a education program in Lodja. Pierrot is one of my favourite people. He’s always cheerful, but he’s working in one of the most dangerous places for bonobos in Congo.


This is little Kata when she first came in. Pierrot went to Lodja to rescue her, as well to rescue Lomela, and several other times for bonobos who didn’t make it to the sanctuary.

The new release site was planned to be on an island near Lodja, but after Pierrot’s investigation, Claudine decided the bonobos who were released there probably wouldn’t make it.

The local population believe that eating bonobo meat will help pregnant women give birth to a healthy baby, and that bathing a new born baby in water with bonobo bones will help the baby grow strong.

With these kinds of beliefs and of course the bushmeat trade running rampant, an education program in Lodja is crucial.  We want to set up bonobo clubs in the schools, set up meetings with the hunters, and educate the community through city meetings and radio messages.
Trips to Lodja are expensive so we’re asking for donations to put towards Pierrot’s next trip to the region. Anything helps!

ps. thanks this month to Annette R and Maciej G who have both set up monthly donations to Lola!

conservation through education…

Wow, I’m so impressed and thankful that people were so fired up about the last post. i wrestle with a lot of the same thoughts that everyone had, and by that i mean sometimes I just want to lock up all the people who are torturing and eating bonobos, and then other times I think it’s my fault for living in a country that was and still is part of the rape of the Congo’s resources.  I’ve had 3 mobile phones over the past 12 months, with a coltan chip that almost certainly came from Congo. Sometimes I don’t recycle paper, which indirectly is responsible for the huge trees that are being dragged out of Congo on the back of trucks. Before I worked in Congo I never heard about, or thought to investigate the war that killed more people than any war since world war II. Or the 400,000 women (that we know about) who were raped by foreign soldiers.  de-speigel.jpg,5538,13738,00.html

So yes, they’re eating bonobos.  But the wonderful thing about Claudine is that she doesn’t blame anyone.  She’s not angry at the Congolese, and having lived in DRC for 50 years, she’s practically Congolese herself. Claudine is always looking forward, and there is an action plan for Lodja, that you guys can all help with.  More on that next post.

Disturbing news from Lodja

The following post is from Claudine:

‘Pierrot and Blaise are just back from a new educational mission in Lodja, in eastern Kasai province where Kata and Lomela are from. They are totally shocked and appalled by the situation in bushmeat trafficking. “But what can we do over there?” laments Pierrot. “Those people are wild about ape meat; the markets are crammed full of bushmeat! The people are encouraged to eat bonobo meat, especially if a woman is pregnant: they say the baby will be stronger for it!”

photo from
Information received by Theresa Hart (of the World Conservation Society, WCS), who has just come back from Kindu in nearby Maniema province, confirms my worries. And the primatologist Jonas Erikson tells me about the intensive poaching activity in the Salonga Parks – those national parks specially created for the bonobos in 1970 by President Mobutu!!!

The bushmeat traffic has dire consequences for humans too. Two cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever have been reported in the province, addingmany “monkey pox” cases, a measles variety that is common in this zone… A word to the wise is enough!

Eleke much better

For those that remember little Eleke, I’ve just had a report that he’s doing well. Eleke was the bonobo rescued from someone using him for witchcraft, he was in terrible pain from having his teeth forcibly pulled out, and he also had lacerations around his groin from where he was tied with a leash.

His wounds are healed now, and he can eat and drink fine. He especially likes bananas and pineapple, and the mamas make sure he gets a lot of them. His mamas Yvonne and Micheline say he’s a very calm, sweet bonobo who never provokes the others. He’s always asking gently to be taken by the hand.


His new BFF (Best Friend Forever) is Lomela. She’s got the same temperament as him, in fact they’re from the same region of the Equateur. The mamas joke that they must be related.

Kata is throwing a few more tantrums than usual, having her BFF stolen by Eleke, but Eleke refuses to get drawn into the fight and usually claps Lolo around the waist, hiding from the storm.


This month, thank yous go to Theresa, who gave us $45,  Cathy R, who gave us $40, and our monthly donors Baerbel  and our friends at the Stuttgart Zoo ($70), Sheryl, Brigitta, and Annett ($10), Maciej G ($15),  Kevin C ($20). You guys are all keeping Eleke in pineapples and Lolo cashed up with bananas:)