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From Duke: Bonobo Rescue Leader to Headline Primate Palooza:

DURHAM, N.C. — Internationally renowned conservationist Claudine André will visit Duke University April 14-18 as part of the “Primate Palooza,” an effort to raise awareness for our primate relatives.

André founded and runs the world’s only sanctuary and release program for orphaned bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonobos, like chimpanzees, are our closest living relative and are highly endangered. However, unlike chimpanzees and humans, bonobos are the only ape that has found a way to maintain peace in their groups.

When bonobos have a disagreement with each other they tend to hug or share food instead of having a fight. Bonobos have never been observed to kill each other and females cooperate to prevent males from bullying smaller bonobos. Ironically, this peaceful ape only lives in one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been torn apart by almost a decade of war that has killed more than five million people.

André was given an orphan bonobo called Mikeno when she was caring for abandoned animals at the Kinshasa zoo during the war. She collected food from local restaurants to feed Mikeno and other starving animals while starting kindness clubs to teach Congolese children about animals. Further north, soldiers were shooting bonobos for food, and before long, she was flooded with bonobo orphans.

“I wanted a paradise for my bonobos,” Claudine says. “Somewhere they would always be fed and taken care of. Somewhere they could always see the sky.”

She established Lola ya Bonobo in 2001 in a forest just outside Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo. Since the sanctuary has opened her non-profit “friends of bonobos” has funded the visits of tens of thousands of children to the bonobo sanctuary.

In 2009, André enlisted the help of Duke students and faculty in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department to aid her efforts to release bonobos orphaned by the illegal pet and bush meat trade back into the wild.

“Having Claudine here at Duke is a wonderful opportunity to share with students and the general public the difference a single individual can make,” says Duke researcher Brian Hare. “Claudine has done more for bonobo conservation than anyone else in the world. If you want to meet a conservation heroine this is your chance.”

Duke’s Primate Palooza will run from April 14th – 17th. The main events open to the public are as follows:

Primate Symposium: Why you need to know you are a primate
5-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 14

Duke faculty studying primates will discuss how knowing you’re a primate can improve your life. Keynote speaker Claudine André will speak about her work saving bonobos and defending the world’s last great tropical forest in the Congo Basin. A silent auction including Duke Men’s basketball, Duke Lemur Center, and Bonobo memorabilia will be held to benefit “Friends of Bonobos.”

Love Auditorium
Levine Research Science Center
308 Research Drive
Duke University
Durham, NC, 27708
Public Parking available in Bryan Center on Science Drive a short walk from Center
Contact: Kara Schroepfer, k.schroepfer@duke.edu, 919-943-3482

A night with Claudine André and the bonobos of Congo
6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 15
Durham Museum of Life and Science
433 Murray Avenue, Durham, NC 27704
Contact: Darcy Lewandowski, Darcy.Lewandowski@ncmls.org, (919) 220 -5429 x372

I cannot make it to the talk on Wednesday, but I’ll probably go to the Museum event on Thursday. Go if you can – this is likely to be awesome.