Powell — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a special home for bonobos, as it is one of only seven Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited facilities in the country to house this endangered great ape. On Dec. 9, the Zoo welcomed one more into its family, when a female bonobo named Bertie was born.
This birth is particularly special to conservation efforts because the mother, Susie, is one of two remaining wild-born bonobo living in the United States, and her offspring offer valuable diversity to the population of bonobos in human care.
Susie came to the Columbus Zoo in November 1990 from Limburg Zoo in Zwartberg, Belgium as part of recommendations from the AZA’s Species Survival Plan® and the European Endangered Species Programme. The mother and baby are both doing well and will be available for public visitation on a rotating basis in the Zoo’s Congo region.
Staff members will not know the identity of the father until a paternity test can be completed.
The first bonobos arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 1990. The latest newborn is the 16th bonobo to be born at the Columbus Zoo, which now houses a total of 18 bonobos. Bertie is Susie’s fifth offspring. Bonobos typically give birth to one baby at a time, after a gestation period of about eight months. Bonobos (also known as pygmy chimpanzees) are the smallest and rarest great ape. Because they share more than 98 percent of our DNA, bonobos are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas.
“Bonobos are an incredibly dynamic species with an amazing social system. They were the last ape species to be discovered and due to a lack of research and media focus, they are still widely unknown to most people,” said Audra Meinelt, assistant curator of Congo Expedition. “Bonobos are only found in one region of the world and are facing severe threats. The Columbus Zoo has been a leader in bonobo husbandry and education for many years and we are proud to help educate the public regarding their conservation.”
Bonobos are native to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where their populations appear to be decreasing. These apes face serious human-related threats, primarily habitat destruction through logging and bush meat hunting. The Columbus Zoo assists conservation efforts through a variety of partnerships, including its platinum membership with the Ape Taxon Advisory Group Conservation Initiative. This program funds conservation projects and sanctuaries, and plays a key role in law enforcement efforts. The Zoo also supports the Congolese association Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC), which operates a bonobo sanctuary and advocates wildlife conservation. The Columbus Zoo’s first $50,000 Commitment to Conservation prize, a biennial event, was awarded to Claudine André and her work saving bonobos in the DRC.
Information for this story was provided by the Columbus Zoo.