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DRC's unique chimps find sanctuary

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(12 Aug 2017) LEADIN : Scientists are struggling to save the bonobo, a gentle ape known for making love not war.The bonobo, or pan paniscus, is native only to the vast rain forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a huge central African nation, living high off the ground in treetop nests.A unique wildlife sanctuary is helping to rehabilitate orphaned bonobos in the hope that one day they can be released into the wild. STORYLINE: A meeting of minds. This female bonobo will soon be free to roam around the "Lola ya Bonobo" reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the world's only bonobo sanctuary.Bonobos, also known as Pan paniscus, are endangered and only live around the war-torn DRC.Pierrot Mbonzo, Director of the 'Lola ya Bonobo' sanctuary says that these apes need protecting. "You know that bonobos are endemic to the DRC, they are found in natural environments and on the left bank of the majestic Congo River. And because of this they are threatened mainly by poaching, they are disappearing. It is said that in the 1980s more or less 100,000 individuals could be found in the equatorial forest of the DRC, and today there are only 10,000 to 20,000."The World Wildlife Fund notes on its website that "the size of the bonobo population is largely unknown, it has likely been declining for the last 30 years," estimating the population to be between 10,000 to 50,000 individuals. In 2016 the IUCN Red List listed the bonobo as 'endangered' due to the threats of the bushmeat trade and habitat loss. The "Lola ya Bonobo" sanctuary, spread over 35 hectares, offers these primates a natural space where they are fed and enjoy near freedom whilst being protected in a wildlife reserve, allowing them to learn how to survive in the wild. It also helps local people by offering them a way of making money explains Stany Mokando, Caretaker, 'Lola ya Bonobo' sanctuary."So it is the market (which supplies the food) of the people who live here. Our boss prefers to buy vegetables, fruit, bonobo foods at home because they (the locals) have to benefit from the place, they have to sell it, they have to benefit."Manie Sengo's family grows vegetables for the bonobos."It helps the family because when my husband plants and after harvest they bring the vegetables here. They weigh and pay us according to their imposed price. That's why what little they give us helps to feed the children."The sanctuary rescues orphan bonobos from the illegal bushmeat trade, nurses them back to health at Lola ya Bonobo, near the capital Kinshasa, and if possible they release them back into the wild at another location in DRC. Vet Paulin Mungongo says : "our work begins especially as soon as we receive bonobo orphans. They arrive at a really critical state, dehydrated with edema (swelling) or malnutrition. And as soon as we receive a bonobo orphan we begin to establish a health record."Scientists have found that we are as close genetically to the peace-loving but little-known bonobo as we are to the more violent and better understood chimpanzee. Bonobos and humans share 98.7 percent of the same genetic blueprint, the same percentage shared with chimps, according to a study published in 2012 by the journal Nature. The two apes are much more closely related to each other sharing 99.6 percent of their genomes said the report. Bonobos, chimps and humans shared a single common ancestor from about 6 million years ago. Chimps and bonobos shared the same common ancestor until about a million years ago, when the Congo River formed. Then the bonobos developed on one side of the river, the chimps the other. They became different species, even though scientists didn't realize that until about 90 years ago.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4110275 c11f50e1d0155099e446c510c36c17b7 HZ DRC Primates Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Central Africa Congo River Business Environment and nature General news Animals Government and politics Lifestyle
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