Powell, OH – A female baby bonobo was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Tuesday morning to the delight of Zoo staff and volunteers. This is the 13th bonobo born at the Columbus Zoo since the Zoo received its first bonobos in 1990 in conjunction with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this endangered ape.
This is the third baby for mother “Unga” who is caring for the newborn in the company of the other bonobos in her group. “Unga” has given birth to two other bonobos, both boys, “Gander”, born in 2003 and “Jerry”, born in 2008. All still reside at the Columbus Zoo.
Bonobos and people share more than 98% of the same DNA; in fact, bonobos and chimpanzees are more closely related genetically to humans than they are to gorillas. The bonobo is the smallest of the great apes and is a separate species from the chimpanzee. Females give birth to a single baby after a gestation period of approximately 8.5 months.
Bonobos were the last of the great apes to be discovered and are the rarest with only 5,000-50,000 living in the equatorial forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The primary threat to the endangered bonobo is human behavior, mainly habitat destruction caused by logging. A secondary threat is the hunting of bonobos for bushmeat for native consumption and for sale to logging companies and markets.
Recognizing the desperate situation bonobos face in the wild, the Columbus Zoo supports the Congolese association ABC - Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (Friends of Bonobos in Congo). ABC operates Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, the only sanctuary in the world for bonobos confiscated from the illegal bushmeat and pet trades. ABC has advocated for wildlife conservation throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo for the past 10 years. ABC's mission is "to contribute to the protection of bonobos in their natural environment through educational programs, advocacy work and the facilitation of behavioral research." The Zoo also supports field-based projects to protect wild bonobos and their forest habitat, including the work of the African Wildlife Foundation’s Congo Heartland Program.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium contributes $1 million annually to more than 70 conservation projects in 30 countries. Since 1993 over $1 million has been awarded to Ape Conservation and nearly $350,000 has been given specifically to bonobos. Monies are raised from private contributions and fundraising activities including Wine for Wildlife held each fall at the Zoo.
“We are committed to saving the bonobo through the excellent care given to these amazing animals at the Zoo and by providing significant support for conservation programs in Africa” said Dale Schmidt, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.