Lola ya Bonobo

Kinshasa , Kinshasa
Democratic Republic of Congo


Founded by Claudine Andre in 1994, Lola ya Bonobo is the sanctuary of the NGO, Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC). Since 2002, the sanctuary has been located at Les Petites Chutes de la Lukaya, just outside of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (link to ARC map). Lola ya Bonobo means ‘paradise for bonobos’ in Lingala, the main language of Kinshasa.

Contact Information

Population Description

• 63 bonobos (link to .doc “Lola ya Bonobos 2012”)
• 30 females and 33 males
• Ranging in age from 0-23 years of age with 22 individuals 6 years or younger
• Each of 4 groups (1 nursery and 3 mix age-sex groups) contain between 10-23 individuals

Research Description

Cognitive, behavioral, physiological, genetic, morphological and health research has all been conducted at Lola ya Bonobo since 2005. This has resulted in 30 publications between the years 2007-2012 (link to publications below).

Behavioral observations are possible by watching the bonobos from outside of their forest enclosures. Published research has included studies of vocal and gestural communication, tool use, and social interactions (e.g. dominance, mother-infant relations, etc).

Cognitive research is possible by asking bonobos to volunteer to play problem solving games for supplementary food before leaving to their forest enclosure each morning. Published research has included studies of memory, economic decision making, cooperation and sharing, theory of mind, inhibitory control and temperament. The large number of infant bonobos has allowed for the first developmental comparisons to chimpanzees and humans.

Physiological research has included measurement of both cortisol and testosterone that has been obtained by sampling both saliva and urine non-invasively. Published research has allowed for the first comparison of reactivity of steroid hormones in bonobos and chimpanzees.

Genetic, morphological and health research are possible during routine veterinary health checks conducted in the interest of each individual bonobo. Routine health checks require blood draws. During these blood draws additional blood can be drawn for genetic and health research. While bonobos are anaesthetized for their health checks morphological research can be conducted. Published research includes studies on novel pathogens, disease evolution, bonobo origins and genetic diversity as well as morphological comparisons with chimpanzees.

Research Policy

Lola ya Bonobo’s mission is to assure the conservation and welfare of bonobos. Researchers can play an important role in helping Lola ya Bonobo meet both its conservation and welfare goals. People protect what they respect and people respect what they understand. Researchers can help us understand more about the hidden details of bonobo life and this understanding can then be used to capture the imagination of all ages. When people learn fascinating facts about bonobo life that careful research uncovers, people want to protect bonobos.

Lola ya Bonobo welcomes researchers since their findings provide another powerful tool for educators to use in order to capture the minds and hearts of the future friends of bonobos. However, given the number of demands for research at Lola ya Bonobo, there is an application procedure to ensure that research is productive but at the same time as non-intrusive to the Sanctuary’s work as possible:

All researchers must submit an application to conduct research at Lola ya Bonobo. The application procedure allows us to coordinate the timing of different research projects while functioning as our main mechanism for quality control. We have many requests from students and researchers and we use the application procedure to ensure that researchers who visit have a chance to accomplish their own research goals and that these goals complement and do not conflict with those of the Sanctuary and other researchers.

All research is non-invasive and all researchers must agree to the research policies of Lola ya Bonobo (link to .doc “Lola ya Bonobo research policies”). In some cases CITES export permits can be obtained for the export of samples if the proposed research has clear benefits to the sanctuary population or bonobos more generally. The sanctuary maintains a research permit for all non-invasive research from the Ministry of Research so that individual researchers do not need to obtain a permit from the Democratic Republic of Congo. All researchers must obtain research permits from their home institutions (e.g. IUCUC approval) or countries if required in the researcher’s home country.

If you are interested in research at Lola ya Bonobo, please fill in the application form and send it to the Research Coordinator (however, all students must first have their research advisors contact the research coordinator on their behalf).

Dr. Brian Hare :
(Link to .doc “Lola ya Bonobo research app”).

Related Publications:

  2012 | The self-domestication hypothesis: bonobo psychology evolved due to selection against male aggression. Animal Behaviour

  2010 | Differences in the Cognitive Skills of Bonobos and Chimpanzees. PLoS One.

  2007 | Spontaneous altruism by chimpanzees and children. PLoS Biology.

  2007 | Tolerance allows bonobos to outperform chimpanzees in a cooperative task. Current Biology.

  2010 | Bonobos voluntarily share their own food with others. Current Biology.

  2010 | Evidence for delayed development of social behavior and cognition in bonobos relative to chimpanzees. Current Biology.

  2010 | Reaching around barriers: The performance of great apes and 3- to 5-year-old children on an inhibitory control task. Animal Cognition.

  2011 | The origins of human temperament: children avoid novelty more than other apes. Developmental Science.

  2011 | Bonobos and chimpanzees infer the target of an actor's attention. Animal Behaviour.

  2009 | Divergent spatial memory development in chimpanzees and bonobos. Developmental Science.

  2011 | Chimpanzee and bonobos distinguish between risk and ambiguity. Biology Letters.

  2010 | Decision-making across social contexts: competition increases risk-prone choices in chimpanzees and bonobos. Animal Behaviour.

  2011 | Psychological Health of Orphan Bonobos and Chimpanzees in African Sanctuaries. PLoS One.

  2011 | Assessing the psychological health of captive and wild apes: a response to Ferdowsian et al. 2011. Journal of Comparative Psychology.

  2010 | Differential reactivity of steroid hormones in chimpanzees and bonobos when anticipating food competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  2009 | Bonobos have more human-like second-to-fourth finger length ratio (2D:4D) than chimpanzees: a hypothesized indication of lower prenatal androgens. Journal of Human Evolution.

  2012 | The bonobo genome compared with the chimpanzee and human genomes. Nature.

  2011 | Bonobos Fall within the Genomic Variation of Chimpanzees. PLoS ONE.

  2011 | Blood groups in the species survival plan, European endangered species program and managed in situ populations of bonobo (Pan panicus), common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), gorilla (Gorilla ssp), and orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus ssp). Zoo Biology.

  2010 | Bonobo Handshake: a Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo. Gotham Books.

  2005 | Fatal inflammatory heart disease in a bonobo. Journal of Medical Primatology

  2007 | Bonobos at the “Lola ya Bonobo” sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pan Africa News.

  2009 | Shallow-water habitats as sources of fallback foods for hominins. American Journal of Physical Anthropology

  2012 | Communication during sex among female bonobos: effects of dominance, solicitation and audience. Scientific Reports.

  2012 | High Diversity at PRDM9 in Chimpanzees and Bonobos. PloS One

  2012 | Direct and Indirect reputation formation in great apes and human children. Journal of Comparative Psychology.

  2011 | Hand Preferences for bimanual coordination in 77 bonobos (Pan paniscus): replication and extension. International Journal of Primatology,

  2011 | Female bonobos use copulation calls as social signals. Biology Letters.

  2011 | Bonobos extract meaning from call sequences. PloS One

  2011 | The Structure of Bonobo Copulation Calls During Reproductive and Non‐Reproductive Sex. Ethology

  2011 | Bonobo but not chimpanzee infants use socio-sexual contact with peers. Primates

  2010 | A comparison of bonobo and chimpanzee tool use: evidence for a female bias in the Pan lineage. Animal Behaviour.

  2010 | On the diversity of malaria parasites in African apes and the origin of Plasmodium falciparum from Bonobos. PLoS Pathogens

  2009 | Placental retention in a bonobo (Pan paniscus). Journal of Medical Primatology.

  2008 | The conservation value of Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary. In: Bonobos Revisited. Springer Press.

  2007 | Social games between bonobos and humans: Evidence for shared intentionality? American Journal of Primatology.

  2012 | Education program evaluation at multiple primate sanctuaries in equatorial Africa. International Journal of Primatology.

  2010 | Encephalomyocarditis virus mortality in semi-wild bonobos (Pan panicus). Journal of Medical Primatology

Research Opportunities: