What We Do


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Conservation through confiscation

In Congo, it is illegal to own, kill or sell bonobos, which are an endangered species and protected by law and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). If infant bonobos are discovered on the black market, there has to be a safe place to send them, since they will not survive in the wild without their mother. When we are alerted that a bonobo has been found, we contact the Congolese Ministry of Environment and work with them to confiscate the bonobo and bring the bonobo to Lola.


The bushmeat crisis

Ape sanctuaries exist because of the bushmeat trade. In Congo, livestock is scarce and expensive. Up to 80 percent of the meat consumed is wildlife. After killing an ape community, there are usually infants clinging to their mothers. Hunters will try to sell these infants as pets.

The Bust Meat Trade

Veterinary care

The orphans who arrive at Lola are often in critical condition. Besides being malnourished and dehydrated, they can have respiratory infections, parasites, skin diseases, as well as physical wounds. Our veterinary staff treat immediate illnesses and injuries, and carry out diagnostic tests for suspected diseases.



The Nursery

Just as crucial as physical treatment is psychological care. The bonobos who arrive are often extremely traumatized by the loss of their mothers and families. We have lost more than one orphan to sheer stress. To combat this, infant bonobos are immediately given to a substitute mother who give them all the love and reassurances they need to survive.

Bonobo released back in the wild, swinging in the trees

The Sanctuary

Lola ya Bonobo is 75 acres of primary, tropical forest. We have over 60 bonobos, which is the largest captive population of bonobos in the world. When the bonobos are ready, we introduce them into a larger group of juveniles and adult bonobos, who become their new family. Besides providing lifetime care for our bonobos, we also run award winning education programs. Over 30,000 people visit the sanctuary each year, and most of these visitors are Congolese school children. They are the future decision makers, and if anyone can save bonobos, it will be them.



Lomela was found with two other bonobos in Lodja, a small town near a forest rich with wildlife, as well as diamond mines. Of the three orphans, only Lomela made it to the sanctuary.



A world first

Since 2009, we have conducted the world’s only bonobo release, where a group of orphan bonobos was returned to the wild. The reserve is double the size of Manhattan or 20,000 hectares of primary forest in the Equateur province. The reserve is called ‘Ekolo ya Bonobo’ meaning land of the bonobos.


Ekolo ya Bonobo

Since the release, there have been three wild births, officially making the project a success. Ekolo is right on the river, part of the arterial network of transport routes in Congo. When the bonobos were released, we noticed that thousands of people were travelling from far and wide to see them, many who had never seen a bonobo in their natural habitat. Recognizing a unique opportunity, we began education programs that now reach over 11,000 people a year along the major route that bushmeat traders must travel to market.

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Community Projects

The guardians of the bonobos are the local people, the Ilonga Po. To help them accomplish their goal of protecting the bonobos while developing their own community, our volunteers have worked to improve their lives. We have delivered medical equipment for a birthing clinic, medicine for the village pharmacy, education material for 12 schools, and uniforms for the local soccer team.