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Rare Bonobo Baby Born at Colombus Zoo & Aquarium

A baby Bonobo was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium monday afternoon as Zoo volunteers and staff who have been conducting around the clock observations since February 17 watched via surveillance camera. This is the eleventh bonobo born at the Columbus Zoo since the Zoo received its first bonobos in 1990 in conjunction with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this endangered ape.

Video by Graham Jones
This is the fourth baby for mother Susie who is caring for the newborn in the company of the other bonobos in her group including her offspring Donnie, born in 1993, and Lola, born in 2004. Daughter Kimia, born in 1999, now resides at the Cincinnati Zoo. Bonobos live in dynamic groups and confirmation of the babys sire, either Toby or Jimmy, awaits the results of genetic paternity testing. Currently there are 85 bonobos in ten facilities in North America and 15 reside at the Columbus Zoo.

Bonobos and people share more than 98% of the same DNA; in fact, bonobos and chimpanzees are more closely related genetically to humans than they are to gorillas. The bonobo is the smallest of the great apes and is a separate species from the chimpanzee. Females give birth to a single baby after a gestation period of approximately 8.5 months.

Bonobos were the last of the great apes to be discovered and is the rarest with only 5,000-50,000 living in the equatorial forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The primary threat to the endangered bonobo is human behavior, mainly habitat destruction caused by logging. A secondary threat is the hunting of bonobos for bushmeat for native consumption and for sale to logging companies and markets.

Recognizing the desperate situation bonobos face in the wild, the Columbus Zoo supports the Congolese association ABC - Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (Friends of Bonobos in Congo). ABC operates Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, which has advocated for wildlife conservation in Kinshasa for the past 10 years. ABC's mission is "to contribute to the protection of bonobos in their natural environment through educational programs, advocacy work and the facilitation of behavioral research."

In 2009, the Zoos Conservation Grants Program and Partners in Conservation awarded more than $1 million in program support for 70 conservation projects in 35 countries. Over the past five years, the Zoo has distributed $4 million in support. This money is raised from restricted donations, conservation fundraisers, and coins donated by Zoo visitors.

"We are committed to saving the bonobo through the excellent care given to these amazing animals at the Zoo and by providing significant support for conservation programs in Africa," said Columbus Zoo Executive Director Dale Schmidt.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days a year 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day. General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+. Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.) For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org.