Bonobo, The Forgotten Primate
Once upon a time. It was Easter holiday, and we had long weekend. Most of everybody we knew was out of the country, but us. Three of us (Luna, Sari, and I) were sitting in our flat, on 22nd floor in Kinshasa. We had no plan to go anywhere, even if we had, we did not know how to get there. All of a sudden, Luna’s phone rang, gave a little shock to us. It was Erick, Luna’s colleague from work. He asked if we are willing to be his company today to visit Bonobo. Of course, we were. Erick saved us from the unbearable boredom.
Two hours later, Erick picked us up. There was a little drama before he came. He almost canceled the trip since he could not find his driving license. But, five minutes later he confirmed that he was on the way to our flat. Erick was not alone. A South African army was with him. We called him Papa Captain (I totally forgot his real name). Soon, we left Kinshasa and headed to Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary.
I should give compliment to five of us for our courages for this journey. Five of us were new in Kinshasa. None of us knew the location, terrain and what we were going to face along the way. Okay, we had Papa Captain, a military guy. But he came as military observer and he was not allowed to carry gun with him. Okay, maybe I was a bit paranoid about this, since the location is only 45 minutes driving from city center towards Matadi, if we did not get lost. There was no GPS and maps. We just lean on Erick’s memory that got the verbal information from Congolese guy who he worked with. Another fact that none of us spoke French made the journey became more complicated when we tried to ask some directions from the locals, and no one spoke English at all.
Erick had driven for almost two hours, but we still did not see the sign that the sanctuary is exist. We almost decided to return to Kinshasa with disappointed feeling, when we saw one Congolese guy lift his hand to us. Oh, thank God. He was actually friend of Papa Captain. We were never as excited as that seeing people who finally could give us information in the language that we understood. We apparently had passed the crossroads for more than 20 km where the sanctuary is located. Our friend took a paper and draw emergency map for us. We could not thank him more.
Finally. We arrived at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary. We were almost disappointed again when we found that the place was actually closed that day. Yet, the sanctuary manager could not let us disappointed. He let us to come inside, and showed us the place where Bonobos live. As expression of our gratefulness, we left some money as donations when we left the place.
Before I continue the story, so what is Bonobo? or Who is Bonobo? Bonobo is one of ape species found exclusively in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They share 98,7% of similarity of DNA with human being, which is meant that bonobos are more closely related to human than gorillas. While most of us believe that humans are the most intelligent species on earth, and that is true since we proved that we are extremely successful in impressive technology, we still have problem that we can not overcome. We, humans, can not figure out how to avoid murder and war which lead to the deaths of innocent ones. We share this nature with our close relative, chimpanzees that has murder rate as much as humans before modern weapons were introduced. But bonobos have never been to seen to kill their own kind. Therefore, bonobos are always connected to the symbol of world peace. The main reason why these animals are so peaceful is that males are not in charge in a group. Females are always in charge. They are smaller than males, but have very special friendships that can prevent males from hurting another. Until today, there are only between 50,000 and 75,000 remain in the wild, and they are predicted become extinct in the next 75 years. Therefore, Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary was held to support this species. Most of them are orphanages. Once they’re older, stronger and ready to live on their own, the bonobos will be released into their wild habitat.
Back to the story, the manager, Papa Sympho, took and showed us around. He brought some bananas that will be shared to a group of Bonobos. When they saw Papa Sympho, they became so excited. Papa Sympho talked to them in Lingala and French, told them that we wanted to meet them today. It seems that bonobos truly understood what Papa Sympho said. They gave us big and sincere smile that I never imagine primates could give. Once they saw us, they did their best to impress us. One Bonobo, called Fizzy, even took an interesting pose when she saw my camera. I did not miss the chance, and I took some snaps of Fizzy. The other unique fact of Bonobos, they love to ‘make love’ when they eat. Therefore, they promoted words, “MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR”