In conversations about the history of Africa, the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo remains difficult to process. Amongst others, history records that the Great War of Africa began in Congo. Right from that time till date, the country has had to deal with a series of instability. Although life in Congo hasn’t remained the same for many, the country is beginning to head back in the right direction. 

Despite the long riven strife, the Democratic Republic of Congo remains one of Africa’s most attractive tourist destinations for people. With many beautiful scenes, the country is host to some of the most spectacular tourist centers in the world. Amongst these attraction centers is Lola Ya Bonobo 

Lola Ya Bonobo – Paradise for Bonobos

Lola Ya Bonobo is among the most visited tourist centers in the Kinshasa area of the DR of Congo. It serves as a sanctuary for orphaned Bonobos. 

The Bonobo is a species of the Ape family, known as one of the world’s rarest and most intelligent animals. Just like the chimpanzees, the Bonobos are closely related to humans in terms of behavior. They teach their young ones social skills, use tools to acquire food and work together to benefit the entire troop. The Bonobos live in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the Bonobo society, the females rule the roost and keep a lifelong relationship with their sons. Unlike the sons who stay in a troop, the matured females leave the troop of birth and find another one to join. In the new group, she breeds with all the males and gains permanent membership when she gives birth. The Bonobos rely on one another. They form close relationships and ensure to give comfort and reassurance to one another. The Bonobos feed mainly in trees and eat primarily fruits and other herbs and roots. As a result of environmental pressures and poaching, the bonobos are regarded as endangered species. As humans fragment their habitat, they have become vulnerable to hunters who hunt them for meat and sell their young ones as pets in the black market. It is as a result of this endangerment that the Lola Ya Bonobo wildlife reservation was created 

The sanctuary saves as many Bonobos as possible and keeps them in the sanctuary so they can live in safety. The Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary functions as the only sanctuary for orphaned Bonobos in the world. Created in 2002, the sanctuary is located in the south of Kimwenza at the Petites Chutes de la Lukaya in Kinshasa. In the 30 hectares of primary forest, the sanctuary houses up to 60 orphaned bonobos. 

Typically, the young bonobos arrive at the sanctuary in their infancy stage after they have been rescued from hunters and traders. They usually arrive in bad shape. Most of them arrive malnourished with illnesses, intestinal parasites, broken arms, and even bullet wounds. Asides from the physical damage, they also arrive traumatized since they have had to endure captivity, witness the slaughter of their troop, and survive the stressful trip by rod and air. The sanctuary takes care of them and nurses them to health.

Since Bonobos babies cannot survive without deep care, they are made to start a new life in the sanctuary with immediate care, love, and attention from a human mother who serves as a substitute for their natural mother. These surrogate mothers care for them, bathe, feed, carry and play with them. They also help them create bonds with other bonobos. 

The Bonobos are naturally peaceful, so they do not find it hard to be integrated into a peer group. Although they live in a confined area, the bonobos in the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary live as though they were in the wild environment. They compete for mating opportunities, feed on fruiting trees, and avoid dangers. The bonobos in the sanctuary show all the behaviors that would have been typically seen in a bonobo living in the wild environment.  

Since its establishment, the sanctuary has functioned as an enforcing authority of the domestic and international conservation laws to protect bonobos from being traded. As it provides care and rehabilitation for confiscated bonobos, the sanctuary goes ahead to release those that are well enough to return to the forest. After sending them to their more natural habitat, the sanctuary then monitors them for their survival. In some cases, they are made to remain in the sanctuary for the rest of their lives. The sanctuary also educates visitors about the unique Congolese inheritance, particularly the bonobos. 

The sanctuary offers daily tours for visitors and even allows visitors to stay in the sanctuary to enjoy watching the Bonobos for up to two weeks. Visitors are also allowed to accompany a caregiver on a boat ride to feed the Bonobos and watch them gather for food. The sanctuary believes that when people visit, they are actually contributing to the conservation of the apes. 

The sanctuary, however, does not support physical contact between humans and the bonobos. As the Bonobos have similar physiology to humans, it is easy for them to contract illnesses from visitors even when they show no signs of any illness. So, physical contact is limited to their surrogate mothers.  

The Asbllef Tour to DR Congo 

As Asbllef aims to give donors a feel of the country’s beautiful sceneries, we always organize periodic tours to places in the DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo. One of these places is the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary. Beyond the instability, we aim to help our donors see the beauty of the DR of Congo. We aim to show how the sanctuary keeps Bonobos alive and safe from hunters who take advantage of the instability to poach the peaceful apes. Profits accrued from the tour would be donated to the Sanctuary managements and other NGOs in the DR OF Congo. While showing the world the country’s inheritance, Asbllef will also contribute to the development and sustainability of the Democratic Republic of Congo.