Twycross Zoo has announced the arrival of a very special addition to the bonobo family, a baby female born on the 6th January 2012 named Lopori.
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Bonobos are endangered primates which are found exclusively in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Following an eight and a half month pregnancy, Twycross Zoo bonobo Maringa gave birth to the newborn, who weighed in at a respectable 1.44 kilograms.
Charlotte Macdonald, Living Collection Curator, said: “When keepers arrived at the enclosure to find Maringa had given birth, they noticed the baby was strong and alert but not actually on mum. She was being kept warm and safe by another female bonobo within the group.
“Maringa has had difficulty raising her young in the past therefore we have been planning for this birth in conjunction with the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) since last summer. Donna Smithson, one of our bonobo keepers, visited Frankfurt Zoo last year to observe how they trained one of their female bonobos to be a foster mum, in the event that Maringa showed no interest in the newborn.” Charlotte said.
Maringa’s sister Diatou was chosen to look after the baby and keepers at Twycross Zoo have been giving the new auntie special training, with the idea that Diatou would learn to treat the baby as its own mother would.
Charlotte added: “Keepers plan to care for the baby until she is a little bit older and not reliant on two-hourly feeds. When the newborn is returned to the group, Diatou will become the mother in all aspects but feeding – Diatou is being trained to bring the baby to the mesh of the enclosure in order for keepers to feed the baby.
Bonobos are similar in size and appearance to chimpanzees, but have darker faces, a middle part to their hair and red lips. They are human’s closest living relatives, sharing 99.6% of our DNA.
Mum Maringa is also said to be recovering well following the birth.
Twycross Zoo ran a week-long Facebook competition in their quest for a name for the baby bonobo. The baby is now said to be thriving and developing her own character.
“We are starting to introduce Lopori to elements of the bonobo environment that she will eventually be exposed to, in order to familiarise her with different textures and smells, ” Charlotte went on to explain.
“Within the enclosure the bonobos use wood wool for nesting, so we created a small nest of wood wool for Lopori, which she can investigate.”
“Her sleeping pattern has changed over the past few weeks and we are aware she has now developed a sense of day and night, sleeping for longer periods during the night and not fully waking for her night feeds.”
“Now Lopori is gaining more strength, the next step for keepers will be to introduce her to climbing materials that mimic those within the main enclosure. We will build her a miniature climbing frame which will help her muscles and her sense of balance develop.”
Lopori has daily interaction with dad Kakowet and foster mum Diatou and the rest of the group are showing an interest in her too, something which is seen to be a very positive step to her introduction into the tribe.
Curator Charlotte is expected to visit the US soon to attend the International Bonobo Conference, which helps interested parties to understand the primates and offers an opportunity to discuss the development of bonobos.
Twycross Zoo is the only animal attraction in the UK to keep and breed bonobos and there are less than 100 in captivity in Europe. Poaching is one of the most important challenges faced to protecting bonobos and education on hunting is considered to be a vital aspect in their conservation.
It’s currently estimated that there may be as few as 5000 remaining bonobos in the wild.