Friends of Bonobos

A nonprofit organization

We're on a mission to save and protect bonobos and 

their rainforest home - forever.

We do this through rescue, sanctuary, and rewilding, and by partnering with local communities to tackle root causes and save rainforest in the DR Congo, the only place where bonobos live in the wild.

Diyoko was being kept as a pet when concerned community members alerted us to his plight. Even after being rescued, the bonobo orphan was so traumatized that he became increasingly distressed and was attempting to injure himself and others. Concerned that he would not survive the wait for transport to Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary, the team came up with a creative solution to save his life - if he couldn’t make it to the mamas, they would send a mama to him! 

With time of the essence, Yvonne headed to Diyoko. She spent a week gently and slowly building an emotional bond. Before long, thanks to her love and affection, Diyoko’s behavior was transformed. Soon after, Diyoko made it to Lola. He is now thriving in the nursery with the other baby bonobos and will graduate to an adult enclosure soon.

Mama Yvonne Vela was the ideal person to go to Diyoko. Our most experienced surrogate mom, Yvonne embodies the spirit of Friends of Bonobos with her tireless dedication to nurturing orphaned bonobos and giving them their best chance at recovery, and ultimately, a life in the wild someday. 

Originally from Angola, Yvonne was forced to flee when war broke out in her country. She came to the DRC and pursued a career in teaching, which led her to meet our founder Claudine André. Claudine noticed Yvonne’s dedication to her students and invited her to work at Lola ya Bonobo. 

Twenty years later, we can’t imagine the sanctuary without Yvonne. Her style is all love and no nonsense! Since joining the team, she has raised a long line of happy and healthy bonobos. 


We have a comprehensive approach to bonobo conservation. We're in this for the long haul.

- We provide rescue, sanctuary, and rewilding to endangered bonobos.                             
- We save rainforest where bonobos live. 
- We work with communities and government to tackle the root causes of bonobo endangerment. 
- We educate and raise awareness for bonobos and their plight locally and globally.

Our goal is to see bonobo numbers rebound in the wild until they are

no longer endangered or threatened by poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

Rescue and Care 

At Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary, orphaned bonobos are rescued from the illegal trade in wildlife, nursed back to health and cared for as long as needed, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Bonobos who are able are released back to the wild - to a protected area deep in the Congo rainforest.

Rewild and Protect

We are the only organization in the world to successfully release bonobos back to the wild!

Bonobos are released in Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve where they live free and protected by a team of locally-hired eco-guards. We work with the surrounding communities to manage and protect this 120,000-acre forest preserve, ensuring wildlife can flourish and their rainforest homes are protected.

Education and Awareness

We raise global and local awareness of endangered bonobos and the threats to their survival. We work with local and international authorities to uphold and strengthen the laws supporting endangered wildlife.

This work began 25 years ago in the DR Congo, the only country where bonobos live in the wild. For most Congolese, the sanctuary is their only opportunity to see a bonobo face-to-face in a semi-wild environment. They come to appreciate the uniqueness of bonobos and understand why we must protect them. 

We also bring educational programs to areas of the DRC where poaching and wildlife trafficking are common. Through these programs, we strive to inspire Congolese to take pride in their natural heritage and work to protect it.


Community Development

Extreme poverty is the root cause of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade that threaten bonobos. In the area around Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve, people lack access to basic necessities like food, education, and health care. To save bonobos, we must address these needs. 

Local communities are critical partners in conservation work. They help to protect and manage the forest and its resources to benefit both people and wildlife. Together, we support community development initiatives to improve access to education, healthcare, nutrition, and employment. 

Investing in the communities not only supports people and bonobos, it also supports many other species, the rainforest, and the planet.

Organization Data


Organization name

Friends of Bonobos

other names

Lola ya Bonobo


Animals International Community


P.O. Box 2652
Durham, NC 27715



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