Just like okapi, bonobos (Pan paniscus) are endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the rainforest south of the River Congo. The main threats to bonobos in the wild are hunting and deforestation. While they are not actively hunted, some become victims as an accidental side-effect of illegal hunting for bushmeat. Just like okapi, bonobos also serve as ambassadors for the rich Congolese rainforest and the zoo population is managed as a back-up for the population in the wild. When EEPs were set up in 1985, the bonobo programme was among the first, together with those of the okapi and the Congo peafowl.
The breeding management programme for this species is coordinated, on behalf of Planckendael ZOO, by researchers Jeroen Stevens and Zjef Pereboom. Planckendael ZOO has actually been conducting scientific research with bonobos for more than 25 years. This contributes significantly to a better understanding of bonobos and helps us manage the breeding programme more effectively.
In Congo, our researcher Barbara Fruth works as coordinator of the LuiKotale Bonobo project, on the southwestern edge of Salonga National Park. By systematically observing the behaviour of individual bonobos and analysing the urine, faecal and hair samples we collect, we seek to further expand our knowledge of the habits and ways of bonobos. Planckendael ZOO set up its own research station in Congo in early 2000, long before any other zoo.