Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Honors Claudine André with their Commitment to Conservation Award

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Honors Claudine André with their Commitment to Conservation Award

Claudine André, President of Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) and Founding Director of Lola ya Bonobo, the world’s only sanctuary for the endangered bonobo, will be honored with a $50,000 prize from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium at their first-ever Commitment to Conservation Award ceremony in Columbus Ohio, on April 6th 2012. The ceremony in April will launch the biennial event. Recipients of the award are long-term partners of the Zoo who receive support for their work through the Zoo’s Conservation Fund. The award is made possible through proceeds from the Zoo’s annual Wine for Wildlife event.

Columbus Zoo has been an important longstanding advocate and supporter of Claudine’s work helping to ensure the successful rehabilitation of an ever-growing number of orphan bonobos confiscated from the illegal bushmeat and pet trades.

It was in 1993, when an orphaned bonobo arrived at the Kinshasa Zoo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that Claudine’s fate was sealed. At the time she was volunteering at the zoo and was told that all other bonobos who arrived at the zoo had invariably died. Not this time. Much to everyone’s surprise, Claudine saved the little ape, and local people then began bringing injured and orphaned bonobos to her. When news reached officials from DRC’s Ministry of the Environment, they began confiscating captive bonobos, whose capture and sale are illegal in Congo, and took them to Claudine for expert care. To address the growing demand, Claudine started the non-profit organization Les Amis des Bonobos du Congo in 2002 and established the first sanctuary for bonobos on 70 acres of enclosed forest outside of Kinshasa.

Originally established to help provide refuge for rescued bonobos, ABC’s programs have since expanded in scope and scale over the years. Today ABC has an integrated bonobo conservation program that includes the rescue and rehabilitation of orphan bonobos at the sanctuary, environmental education activities in and around Kinshasa and within targeted bonobo habitat areas, which have reached more than 200,000 people in the past 5 years, as well as the world’s first ever release of bonobos back into the wild, a program that was launched in 2009.

Please join us in congratulating Claudine on her award and for her incredible contributions to bonobo conservation! Her dedication to the protection of bonobos and their habitat is an inspiration to us all!