These great apes are in critical danger

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Conservation Status:


  • Only 100K Bonobos remain
  • Habitat sustainable for 10 years
  • Population spread across 6 habitats

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Pan paniscus


Males: 85 lb./38.5 kg
Females: 65 lb./29.5 kg


Males: Up to 4 ft.
Females: Up to 3.5 ft.

Life span

60 years in captivity


Lowland rain forest




About 7.5 months




Where do bonobos live?

Bonobos are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the Congo River, the Lomami River, the Kasai/Sankuru Rivers, and Lake Tumba/Lac Ndombe region.

Bonobos can survive in close proximity to human communities that are willing to co-habitate with these peaceful apes. Recent surveys show that many areas had bonobos 20 years ago and now they have none. The DRC has been politically unstable for the last 10 years and has made a major impact on the bonobos decline.

Tags: DRC, East Africa, Congo View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What are bonobos?

Our closest cousins, bonobos share 98.4 percent of our genetic makeup. They’re distinguished by their black faces, red lips, two or three webbed toes, a tail tuft, and parted long hair.

Behavior & Diet

Bonobos whimper when they fail, just like humans.

Bonobos move quadrupedally in a special position called knuckle-walking. In trees, they also tend to suspend themselves from their arms to move around easier. And on the ground, the bonobo can walk bipedally as well, making it the most human-like of all apes.

The bonobo lives in a fission-fusion society. That is, dividing and coming back together on a regular basis. Groups range from 50-100 which, during the day, break up into smaller foraging parties. At night, they reunite with each subgroup making a sleeping nest from branches and leaves.

Bonobos control their emotions during times of happiness, sorrow, excitement, or anger. They also have human-like gestures when communicating without sound—they beg by stretching out an open hand and they whimper if they fail at something.

Bonobos love to feast on fruit.

While fruit is their primary food source, Bonobos will also eat leaves, flowers, seeds, bark, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. Bonobos eat over 113 types of plants, in fact. If they eat meat, it’s usually opportunistic versus the result of an organized hunt.    

  • Bonobo Cyril Ruoso
  • Bonobo Craig R. Sholley
  • Bonobo Craig R. Sholley
  • Bonobo John Watkins ICCE
  • LCSC Andrew Fowler
  • Iyondji Brenda Brainch

Less than 100,000 bonobos remain because of predators and threats.

Unfortunately, only a small portion of the bonobos’ habitat is protected. And even then, due to the war in the DRC, they are threatened by illegal activities such as hunting, deforestation, and habitat loss. Some are killed for medicinal and magical purposes, because specific body parts are believed to increase sexual drive and strength.

The locals depend on wildlife for protein, while logging companies supply their employees with bushmeat by employing commercial hunters. Logging operations are partly responsible for destroying their habitat.

Their population is shrinking and reproduction cannot happen fast enough.

Bonobo females become sexually mature after they’re 12 years old and may give birth soon after. However, bonobo females give birth to a single infant every five to six years, and they tend to nurse and carry their babies for five years. As a result, a population growth can’t happen fast enough.


Our solution to the wildlife conservation crisis is hands-on, up close, and personal:

  • Create a conservation plan.

    The bonobos live in the heart of the Congo, and the African Wildlife Foundation has set up a conservation plan to help stop the destruction of these gentle animals and their habitat. We created The Lomako Conservation Science Center in the heart of the bonobos habitat. This center supports wildlife surveys, training of Congolese researchers and developing wildlife conservation plans. 

  • Get communities involved.

    AWF has surveyed key areas of Bonobo habitat and polled local communities on how their needs could fit within our conservation goals. 

  • Develop new strategies.

    By regularly monitoring the endangered bonobos numbers and keeping track of where they are, conservationists can develop strategies to find economic alternatives for communities who hunt them for protein.


Will you show the bonobos your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on vital programs like providing necessary equipment to the rangers who risk their lives protecting endangered species such as the bonobo. Or funding scientific ecotourism projects in the Congo that make communities less reliant on poaching to survive. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the survival of this endangered species.

  • Iyondji Craig R Sholley
    Iyondji Community Bonobo Reserve
    A new community reserve for the endangered bonobo

    Bonobos in danger. 

    One of the greatest threats to wildlife in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is loss of habitat due to land conversion, human encroachment,...

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    African Apes Initiative
    Saving Africa’s great apes from the brink of extinction.

    All of Africa’s great ape species are either endangered or critically endangered.

    Africa is home to four of the world’s five great apes: the...

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  • Ilima Conservation Primary School
    Ilima Conservation Primary School
    Going beyond the building to provide a holistic education in DRC

    In a remote part of rural DRC, AWF built a different kind of primary school.

    When AWF arrived in Ilima, the local school was a ramshackle building that failed to serve the educational...

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  • Congo Shipping Project Charly Facheux
    Congo Shipping Project
    Growing the DRC's agricultural options

    Civil war has led to poverty and environmental degradation. 

    Following years of social turmoil and civil war, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was left without a...

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  • LCSC Paul Thomson
    Lomako Conservation Science Center
    Research and solutions for bonobo populations

    Loss of habitat and a skyrocketing bushmeat trade have taken a toll on bonobo populations.

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s)...

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