Bonobo Conservation Initiative Mon, 05 Jun 2017 14:53:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bonobo News May 2017 Sun, 14 May 2017 23:20:21 +0000 Read more]]> Happy spring! As the flowers blossom and the birds sing, it’s a great time to celebrate our beautiful planet and all the people who are working on its behalf. In this newsletter, we take you to the largest Earth Day event in the world, share great news from the field (newborn bonobos!), show you a circus that benefits wildlife, and introduce you to one of our Outstanding Supporters, David Reuben.

In recognition of the many organizations dedicated to keeping the Earth healthy, CrowdRise has launched the Earth Day Roadmap Climate Challenge.This friendly fundraising competition will provide $300,000 in prizes-including a $100,000 grand prize donation! We’re so honored that we were invited to participate. Thanks to all who have contributed so far! And we have some incredible news–Outstanding Supporter David Reuben is offering a 100% match on all Roadmap donations from now until the end of the fundraiser, May 18 at 12PM ET! Please make the most of his incredible offer–help us get on the leader board so that we can win the grand prize for the bonobos.

You are part of what makes this planet great. Thank you for all you do to support our work. Every day, you are making a difference!

Earth Day Texas Fri, 12 May 2017 16:33:57 +0000 Read more]]> From April 21-23, we had the incredible privilege of participating in Earth Day Texas, the largest Earth Day event in the world. With over 850 exhibitors and 150,000 attendees, it was truly an epic celebration of the Earth and all its beauty and diversity. The event was divided into six major areas of focus: home, health, and active lifestyle; academic, culture, and community; technology and innovation; natural resources and conservation; policy and industry; and children and family. With so many options to choose from, there was something for everyone.

BCI's outreach and development coordinator Jessie Jory inspires future conservationists at BCI's booth; Photo Credit: Bonobo Conservation Initiative
BCI’s outreach and development coordinator
Jessie Jory inspires future conservationists
at BCI’s booth. Photo Credit: Bonobo
Conservation Initiative

In addition to the hundreds of booths, there was a full schedule of presentations. Over 200 expert presenters shared their knowledge with the eager crowds at a variety of speaking events. BCI’s founder, Sally Jewell Coxe, spoke at the Evergreen Banquet and on a panel titled “Rainforests Revisited.” She was joined by eminent conservationists such as George Wallace of Rainforest Trust and Brett Byers of Million Acre Pledge. During her talks, she fielded questions about forest conservation and threats to bonobos.

While Sally was speaking on panels, our outreach and development coordinator, Jessie Jory, “womanned” the BCI booth. She answered questions, handed out materials, and helped educate thousands of passersby about bonobos. Her work started well before the event itself. In the weeks leading up to Earth Day, she facilitated the efforts of the AP Environmental Science class at South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, TX. The class did a unit about bonobos based on BCI’s Teacher Resources. Jessie did a Skype interview with the students as well as working directly with their instructor. Thanks to their studies, the students were able to set up their own booth about bonobos, offering quizzes on bonobo facts and bonobo masks for children (drawn by one of the students!).

Speaking at the Evergreen Banquet, BCI president Sally Jewell Coxe enlightens guests about bonobos and how BCI works with local communities to protect the Congo rainforest; Photo credit: Earth Day Texas
Speaking at the Evergreen Banquet, BCI president Sally Jewell
Coxe enlightens guests about bonobos and how BCI works with
local communities to protect the Congo rainforest
Photo credit: Earth Day Texas

And that’s not all! Jessie also collaborated with the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas to help the girls earn their “communi-tree” badges. The Scouts did a scavenger hunt throughout the grounds, visiting the booths of participating organizations. At each booth, they got to engage in a special activity and get a stamp on their map for completing the activity successfully. At the BCI booth, Jessie gave each Scout an introductory speech about bonobos. Then each Scout either wrote down what they found most interesting about bonobos or what they could personally do to help bonobos. They wrote their ideas on recyclable paper leaves that were then attached to the branches of a fabric tree in our booth. At the end of the weekend, the branches were filled with over 200 leaves! We hope that the fullness of the tree is a symbol of good things to come as we work to inspire the next generation of conservationists.

South Grand Prairie High School students spreading the word about bonobos; Photo Credit: Bonobo Conservation Initiative
South Grand Prairie High School students spreading the word
about bonobos; Photo Credit: Bonobo Conservation Initiative

We are so grateful to the organizers of Earth Day Texas and to its founder, Trammell S. Crow. Most of all, we are grateful to the attendees who came together to celebrate this beautiful planet we call home.

Field Updates Fri, 12 May 2017 16:30:38 +0000 Read more]]> These are exciting times in the Yetee forest of Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve! The theme of the past few months has been continuity amidst transition. With a new team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, new baby bonobos (hooray!), and new trackers in the field, the work happening in the forest continues to provide valuable insights into the world of the bonobos.

One of the new members of the Kokolopori bonobo family; Photo Credit: Kokolopori Bonobo Project
One of the new members of the Kokolopori bonobo family
Photo Credit: Kokolopori Bonobo Project

During the end of January and the beginning of February, researchers Maelle Lemaire and Axel Ruiz welcomed Rodolphe Violleau and Claudia Wilke to the research camp. Rodolphe has worked in a number of African sites, including Lui Kotale in the DRC. Claudia is an experienced researcher of chimpanzees. After training under Maelle and Axel, Claudia is now in charge of long-term data collection and Rodolphe is the new camp manager. They are working alongside Stefano Lucchesi, who has been onsite for several months, and they will be joined by Leveda Chang, who will return to the field this summer. Though Maelle and Axel are greatly missed, the personnel transition has been seamless for everyone, human and bonobo alike. Claudia and Rodolphe have a great rapport with the trackers, and the bonobos have accepted the presence of new researchers with no hesitation.

Not to be outdone by the humans, the bonobos have some new personnel of their own! The Nkokoalongo group has two new baby boys: Tupac, son of Tyler, and Schubert, son of Simone. The bonobos are so comfortable with the researchers that Tyler came down to the ground when Tupac was only two days old and proceeded to groom him right near the humans. This is an incredible sign of trust and bodes very well for the future of research in this forest. And remember the female born to the Ekalakala group in September? She has been named Vanille. We are looking forward to watching these bonobos grow up, and we will keep the baby pictures coming!

None of the research would be possible without the tireless efforts of our trackers; Photo Credit: Kokolopori Bonobo Project
None of the research would be possible without
the tireless efforts of our trackers
Photo Credit: Kokolopori Bonobo Project

The scientists have continued making great strides in learning about the bonobos. They now know the composition of each group and are gaining a clearer understanding of their feeding and ranging patterns. Stefano will continue to study how food brings bonobo groups together and what happens when they meet. Dr. Martin Surbeck, lead researcher, will head back to Kokolopori in July to establish the next steps in evidence-based monitoring. One project involves the placement of camera traps in strategic locations throughout the forest. The “traps” have motion detectors that trigger the camera to take photos or videos. The information gathered gives scientists insight into animal behaviors that might not otherwise be observed. Camera traps can also serve as a deterrent to poaching and other negative human impacts.

None of the research would be possible without the tireless efforts of the trackers. They are in the forest every day, following bonobos from nest to nest and collecting valuable data. We’re excited to have two new members of the tracker team. Okito has joined us from Yomboli, a nearby village within the ranging territory of the Ekalakala and Nkokoalongo bonobos. The research team also just finished training two trackers, Lobilo and Maradona, who work with Vie Sauvage and BCI; they are now ready to help habituate the Bekako bonobo group and take GPS coordinates to gain a better understanding of the group’s movements within the forest. We are all excited to get more information about this third bonobo group and its relationship to the other Kokolopori bonobos.

Named after famous musicians, Bowie, Jackson, and Armstrong cuddle up for some afternoon grooming; Photo Credit: Kokolopori Bonobo Project
Named after famous musicians, Bowie, Jackson, and
Armstrong cuddle up for some afternoon grooming
Photo Credit: Kokolopori Bonobo Project

Please stay tuned for more updates from the field. We are sure that the researchers and trackers will continue their excellent efforts over the next few months, and that we will have even more fascinating bonobo news to share with you. Want to help the field teams keep up the good work? Please show your support and donate today. Better research means a brighter future for the bonobos and their neighbors.

Cirque de Bonobo Fri, 12 May 2017 16:28:25 +0000 Read more]]> Can you imagine a circus where humans perform and apes benefit? We can, thanks to Jen Taylor! An animal rights advocate and circus performer, Jen created Cirque de Bonobo to raise funds and awareness on behalf of bonobos. We’re happy to report that her efforts resulted in an evening of incredible, high-flying entertainment, as well as a donation of more than $1000!

Getting ready for Circus Bonobo; Photo courtesy of Jen Taylor. Bonobo image from Katarzyna Sadej
Getting ready for Circus Bonobo
Photo courtesy of Jen Taylor. Bonobo image from Katarzyna Sadej

Jen is the Executive Director of the Sanctuary, a nonprofit land trust in East Haddam, CT, dedicated to environmental stewardship and the inclusive search for sacred meaning. She is also the founder and artistic director of Om Fly Circus School. The Sanctuary hosts an annual fundraiser called Karmic Relief, and every year has a different theme. Inspired by BCI’s 15,000 bonobos, 15,000 supporters CrowdRise campaign, the Sanctuary decided that this year’s theme would be Circus Bonobo. The April 1st fundraiser featured Jen’s circus troupe performing an aerial routine on trapeze and silks, the performers’ elegant maneuvers reminiscent of the bonobos’ arboreal grace. They performed in front of projected photos of bonobos, visually reinforcing the close connection between humans and our sister species.

We are so grateful to Jen for dedicating her time and incredible talent to bonobo conservation. She is another shining example of how everyone has something unique to contribute in the fight to save our sister species. Thank you, Jen, for being an inspiration to us all!

Outstanding Supporter Fri, 12 May 2017 16:26:44 +0000 Read more]]> Dedicated supporters mean everything to us and to our work. Their generosity allows us to respond quickly and efficiently to the ever-changing needs in the field, and their commitment enables us to meet the long-term challenges we face in bonobo conservation. We are so grateful to all of you who make our work possible. We would especially like to acknowledge the recipient of BCI’s very first Outstanding Supporter Award–David Reuben!

Our outstanding supporter, David Reuben; Photo courtesy of David Reuben
Our outstanding supporter, David Reuben
Photo courtesy of David Reuben

David has been a tireless supporter since 2012 and has been instrumental in a number of BCI’s programs and projects, including the construction of a conservation center at the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve. The David Reuben Conservation Center serves as the management headquarters for the reserve and gathering place for meetings and conservation-based activities. His efforts will help inspire the next generation of Congolese conservationists–and he also inspires us! He is truly bonobo-like in his generosity, his compassion, and his positive, collaborative spirit.

David hails from Indianapolis and is a longtime resident of Rockville, MD. After graduating from Yale University and pursuing a career in computer science, he discovered a passion for wildlife conservation. He was Executive Producer of the award-winning documentary How I Became an Elephant, a film that raises awareness and inspires action of behalf of elephants. A mutual friend introduced him to BCI founder Sally Jewell Coxe. Like the vast majority of people, David had never heard of bonobos. When she told him about how amazing bonobos are and how BCI is working to protect them, he was immediately supportive. He says, “What BCI is doing in the Congo is unique, impressive, and very important. It has land the size of Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined, creating protected areas to help save the remarkable bonobo species and with them the rainforest that is vital to combat global warming and thus to save all living species. There is no ‘Planet B.’”

Yetee villagers completing construction of the David Reuben Conservation Center; Photo Credit: Bonobo Conservation Initiative
Yetee villagers completing construction of the
David Reuben Conservation Center
Photo Credit: Bonobo Conservation Initiative

We are so honored to have David as part of our team. He is a true friend to BCI, and his kindness is having a profound impact on lives throughout the Congo Basin. Thank you so much, David!

Help bonobos and bonobos will help you! Thu, 15 Dec 2016 16:55:02 +0000 Read more]]> Dear Friends,

Imagine a Congolese woman feeling the first pangs of labor. There is no car, no ambulance, no hospital within reach. In Brooklyn, New York, a doctor gets on his bike and helps deliver lifesaving care to this mother and her child. How? Collaboration.

Dr. Jordan Chanler-Berat’s Brooklyn Bonobos bike race team raised funds for our health clinic in the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve. By supporting the health clinic, Jordan and his team support the Congolese communities who are the primary protectors of bonobos and their rainforest home. One person anywhere in the world can make a difference, but they can’t do it alone. Marie Mpotsi’s successful birth in an improved clinic was made possible by the contributions of many people working together—including generous donors like you. This year, we are celebrating our partners and collaborators, and we are inviting you to be part of the team! (Want to see collaboration in action? Check out these photos!)

Help bonobos and bonobos will help you!

Bonobos share almost 99% of our DNA, making them truly our sister species. Just as we share a common past with bonobos, we also share a common future. Bonobos are hovering on the brink of extinction, mostly due to human activities like hunting and logging. By working together to save bonobos and their habitat, we also save ourselves. The Congo rainforest sequesters tons of carbon, releases oxygen, regulates weather patterns, and mitigates climate change. We cannot survive without it—and together, we can protect it!

The Bonobo Peace Forest: Growing a Brighter Future

Bonobo; Photo Credit: Russell A. Mittermeier
Photo Credit: Russell A. Mittermeier

The Bonobo Peace Forest is a testament to the power of collaboration. Developed in partnership with Congolese organizations and communities, the Peace Forest provides a safe haven for bonobos, protection for vast areas of rainforest, and vital services and economic opportunities for indigenous people. This community-managed network of reserves addresses conservation and humanitarian needs simultaneously, growing a brighter future for all residents of the Congo rainforest, human and bonobo alike.

Our goal is to add over 2 million officially protected acres to the Bonobo Peace Forest within the next 2 years, bringing the total to 11 million. With your support, BCI and partners will create one of the largest contiguous areas of protected rainforest in the world.

This campaign will:

  • Protect irreplaceable rainforest from logging, mining, and other industrial exploitation
  • Create a linked habitat corridor for bonobos and other endangered wildlife
  • Provide lifesaving programs, services, and economic opportunities to indigenous Congolese people
  • Support groundbreaking research in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Raise awareness and promote education about bonobos

Agreements are already in place with four new communities; three more are asking to join, an incredible example of conservation going viral. Our local leaders have the passion, the will, and the know-how to advance a new era in conservation. Your contribution will give them the tools—the training, the boots, the binoculars, the healthcare and education—that will make it possible.

Their Future is in Your Hands—Donate Today!

Bonobos are experts in peaceful collaboration, and we humans are at our best when we follow their example.  Now is the time to come together and invest in the future of our planet. The Bonobo Peace Forest works—and with your help, it can thrive. Please donate at You are our most important collaborator.

With heartfelt thanks,

Sally Jewell Coxe

PS: Did you know that if you purchase from Amazon you can support BCI by signing up for AmazonSmile? Simply sign up at, choose BCI as your favorite charity, and Amazon will donate a percentage of your purchases to us, at no additional cost to you!

Bonobo Workshop Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:03:46 +0000 Read more]]> In September, The Bonobo Project hosted a pioneering event: The Bonobo Communications Workshop. Spearheaded by Bonobo Project founder Ashley Stone and moderated by Dr. Annette Lanjouw of the Arcus Foundation, the workshop aimed to raise awareness of bonobos in the US and to foster cooperation and communication among organizations and individuals dedicated to bonobos.The workshop attracted participants from a variety of disciplines, such as conservation, education, research, and media.

BCI Board Member, Dr. Amy Parish presenting at the workshop; Photo credit: Sally Jewell Coxe
BCI Board Member, Dr. Amy Parish presenting at the workshop
Photo credit: Sally Jewell Coxe

One of the main threats facing bonobos is that they remain largely unknown to the general public. In his presentation, Dr. Brian Hare cited a 2009 study that revealed only 15% of college-educated Americans have heard of bonobos, an especially startling statistic when compared with recognition rates of the other great apes—chimps and orangutans at 80%, and gorillas at a perfect 100%. (Our new CrowdRise video highlights this fact with some candid “person-on-the-street” interviews!) This workshop represents an early but important step in bringing interested groups together to raise the bonobo’s profile and to get the public engaged in bonobo conservation.

The day began with a panel discussion about the current conservation efforts and research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Panel participants included Sally Coxe of BCI, Dr. Gay Reinhartz of the Milwaukee Zoological Society, Fanny Minesi of Lola Ya Bonobo, and Dr. Satoshi Hirata of Kyoto University.  Though each organization has a different emphasis, there were many recurring themes regarding effective strategies for conservation and the challenges that conservationists face. The complexity of the situation was repeatedly noted, acknowledging that the solution to bonobo conservation must be multifaceted. Speakers touched on the importance of working with local communities and finding economic alternatives to hunting, one of the main threats to bonobo survival. Education, both in the DRC and beyond, was cited as a key component to engaging support and instilling a conservation mindset. Sally spoke about the importance of giving local communities the support they need to take the lead in conservation, and how conservation is going viral—spreading from community to community—in the Bonobo Peace Forest. The biggest challenge cited for all groups is lack of stable and sufficient funding, which led the discussion back to the importance of awareness. As Sally pointed out, “Only if people know about bonobos will they care, and only if they care will they do anything to help.”

Workshop participants; Photo courtesy of The Bonobo Project
Workshop participants
Photo courtesy of The Bonobo Project

The second panel addressed the current status of awareness in the US. Three scientists–Dr. Brian Hare, BCI board member Dr. Amy Parish, and Dr. Jeroen Stevens–who have worked extensively with bonobos in captivity presented their experiences and recommendations regarding communicating with the public about bonobos. Bonobos certainly need more media coverage, and one way to drive that is through research. The more that we learn about bonobos, the more news can be generated, and the more familiar bonobos will become. Bonobos are fascinating in their own right, but there’s no question that their relationship to humans is key to piquing people’s interest. Questions were raised about the role of zoos and institutions in providing educational and outreach opportunities for the general public. Dr. Hare cautioned that not all exposure is good exposure. While promoting bonobos and their exceptional qualities, it’s vital to also emphasize that they are not human, they are not pets, and they are, in fact, endangered apes who require our help.

How do we go about securing that help for our primate cousins? This is where awareness comes in. Public awareness leads both to more donations, and to more pressure on governments to provide grants and other positive conservation measures. There are many audiences to be reached and many ways to reach them; everyone has a part to play in bonobo conservation. One way to reach people is through youth-oriented programs. Susan Guinn, whose son founded Kid EcoClub, spoke of young people’s enthusiasm for environmental causes. She also raised the point that, in this digital age, efforts like “virtual field trips” can include many children who otherwise might not have exposure to bonobos. Films and other media are essential for broadcasting the importance of bonobos to children and adults alike. Asher Jay, creative conservationist, and Greg Carson, chief creative officer of marketing firm MeringCarson, both emphasized how crucial it is to create clear and compelling messages for the public, many of whom have never heard of bonobos.

Raising awareness goes beyond the general public. Awareness must be raised in government, in institutions, and in corporations. Government can ensure environmental education in school, as well as providing critical funding. Extractive industries, like logging, mining, and industrial agriculture need to be kept in check in order to prevent complete destruction of the habitat. Corporations can be encouraged to increase philanthropic efforts. Research institutions and zoos can work together to discover more about bonobos and publicize those findings. Only by reaching all these channels can we achieve the coordinated response necessary to protect bonobos.

Ready to raise awareness! Photo credit: Sally Jewell Coxe
Ready to raise awareness!
Photo credit: Sally Jewell Coxe

Awareness is wonderful, but it only helps if it is linked to action. Kudos to Ashley Stone and her new Bonobo Project for bringing people together and bringing in new, creative resources to tackle the problem.  We are excited to be part of these new collaborative  initiatives.

At BCI, we are launching a new CrowdRise campaign to raise awareness and provide immediate support for bonobos. There are as few as 15,000 bonobos left in the wild; we are looking for 15,000 supporters—one human for each bonobo—to contribute and to spread the word about bonobos. 15,000 bonobos, 15,000 supporters—we can get there with your help! Thank you for your continued support!

From the Field Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:02:29 +0000 Read more]]> Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI) are hard at work observing the Kokolopori bonobos, learning more about bonobo group interactions. We know that bonobo encounters tend to be far more peaceful than those of our other closest relatives, the chimpanzees, though not all bonobo interactions are uniformly positive. What sort of environment enables peaceful interactions, and what are the implications for human interactions? While our understanding of chimpanzee dynamics has informed our understanding of early—and even current—human group interactions, the importance of peaceful encounters has gotten less attention in our origin narrative. Trading, information sharing, and collaboration are keys to human success, and these types of positive interactions are worth considering more deeply. The research in Kokolopori is giving us much greater insight into the factors that influence bonobo gatherings, and these findings may help shed light on an overlooked part of our own nature.

Meet Ebony of the Ekalakala group; Photo credit: Martin Surbeck
Meet Ebony of the Ekalakala group
Photo credit: Martin Surbeck

As reported in our last newsletter, researchers were thrilled to discover that two of the habituated groups of bonobos, the Nkokoalongo and Ekalakala, meet and interact regularly within the Yetee forest. In August, they observed interactions with a third group, Bekako, which we are just beginning to habituate. Three-group gatherings are not well-described in scientific literature, so everyone in camp is quite excited to have the opportunity to witness this phenomenon firsthand. Maelle Lemaire, who is in charge of data collection, reports that initially some of the males reacted aggressively, vocalizing loudly and pulling branches. Some females ran to members of their own group, while others engaged in GG-rubbing and other affectionate behaviors. After all the bonobos calmed down, grooming between groups was observed. The groups stayed together for three days, separating to make their night nests and then walking together throughout the days. In September, eight individuals from Bekako stayed with the Ekalakala group for three weeks. Because the Bekako bonobos are not as well-habituated as the other groups, these bonobos tended to shy away from the researchers. Still, they managed to observe more grooming and GG-rubbing; the extended encounter was very peaceful. A less peaceful interaction between Ekalakala and Nkokoalongo in early October has caused the two groups to keep their distance for the last few weeks.

Maelle Lemaire and Axel Ruiz, research team managers; Photo credit: Sally Jewell Coxe
Maelle Lemaire and Axel Ruiz, research team managers
Photo credit: Sally Jewell Coxe

It is tempting to believe that bonobos are unfailingly friendly and welcoming; however, observations paint a more complex picture. In order to understand these nuances of behavior, two doctoral students from MPI have joined Maelle and Axel Ruiz (camp manager) in the forest. Stefano Lucchesi‘s research involves looking at variables like food distribution and ranging patterns to determine what drives proximity. Leveda Cheng observes individual behaviors and characteristics: who is peaceful, who is aggressive, who interacts with whom. Dr. Martin Surbeck, the head researcher on the project, summarizes their work by saying that Stefan is working on what brings groups together and Leveda is focusing on what happens when they do. Both of them are investigating fascinating aspects of bonobo life that will broaden our understanding of these amazing apes.

The researchers have been hard at work identifying and naming the bonobos they follow, an important part of recording accurate observations. Each of the groups has a theme for names: Nkokoalongo bonobos are named after musicians, Ekalakala after colors, and now Bekako after rivers. Researchers are going to have to come up with a new name soon—a baby was just born in the Ekalakala group! Mother and infant are both doing well, and all group members are curious and excited about the new arrival. So are we—and we can’t wait to find out if it’s a boy or a girl! Wild bonobos spend most of their time high in the trees, and mother bonobos keep their babies very close, making it hard to determine the sex of newborns. We will keep you updated as we learn more about the little one!

Baby bonobo at Kokolopori; Photo Credit: Sally Jewell Coxe
Baby bonobo at Kokolopori
Photo Credit: Sally Jewell Coxe
Inspiring Conservation Through Art Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:01:56 +0000 Read more]]> Charity Oetgen is a California-based artist and conservationist. Born and raised in a small Illinois town, she currently attends the Laguna College of Art and Design. Charity has found a unique and inspiring way to combine her love for the natural world, particularly bonobos and their environment, with her talent as an artist. She creates spectacular works of art, primarily paintings, that depict bonobos and the threats they face in the wild.

Charity Oetgen, artist; Photo courtesy of Charity Oetgen
Charity Oetgen, artist
Photo courtesy of Charity Oetgen

Charity states on her website: “My vision is to use art as a means of positively fostering useful and honest dialogues regarding wildlife and delicate social subjects such as human rights. In future projects, I see myself continuing my work with bonobos, as well as bringing forth a discussion of eco-awareness and delicate social matters.”

Through her artwork, Charity aims to bring attention to the situation bonobos face and to “call for viewers to contemplate their relationship with their surroundings and their role in its preservation.” She currently works directly with both BCI and Friends of Bonobos, donating artwork and creating unique images for outreach purposes. Her work has been featured in many exhibitions and fundraisers, and is sought after by collectors of primate art.

BCI: Can you recall the first time you were introduced to bonobos? What was it about bonobos that struck you as so special?

CHARITY: The first time I heard anything about bonobos was in a book called “The Great Apes”, that was almost 16 years ago.  I grew up with a passion for primates, since before I can remember, however this was the first time I had ever heard of bonobos.  I was fascinated that they bonobos were matriarchal and solved conflicts without killing one another.  Almost twelve years ago I saw them at the Memphis Zoo for the first time and from there my connection with them took root.

BCI: What sparked the idea to combine your art with your passion for bonobos?

CHARITY: It was actually one of my teachers in art school that inspired me to finally go for it.  We were always talking about wildlife and the environment during breaks asked me how I would combine my love of bonobos and artwork, since I talked about bonobos more than anything else.  She suggested that I start by working with people in the bonobo world.  I contacted a non-profit working with bonobos and asked how I could use my artwork to help and everything unfolded from there.

Charity Oetgen in action; Photo courtesy of Charity Oetgen
Charity Oetgen in action
Photo courtesy of Charity Oetgen

BCI: Why do bonobos make good subjects for art?

CHARITY: I think they make good subjects simply because I am so passionate about them.  It is that passion that drives me to want to create art about them.  I think it is the feeling or emotional investment you have about the subject that makes it a good subject to paint.

BCI: What is the hardest thing to capture when painting bonobos?

CHARITY: Trying to capture their individuality can be difficult, but it is very important to me. I want people to see them as individuals with personality and their own story when they see the paintings.

BCI: How do you feel your artwork makes a difference for bonobos?

CHARITY:  I feel that my artwork raises awareness by sharing it with people who have never heard of them before and hopefully inspires people to get involved. I hope that my artwork engages people to ask questions about why bonobos are in need of protecting, how can we help, and ask themselves how do their personal actions play a part in bonobos plight.

BCI: In what capacity do you currently work directly with conservation organizations? (BCI included.)

CHARITY: My main work is providing artwork for organizations to use for fundraising.  I provide originals, prints, and thank you cards for them to use at their discretion. I have done live painting and live auctions at multiple fundraising events. I have collaborated with GRASP on a great ape  infographic and also provided art for their recent brochure cover.

BCI: What has been the highlight of your work in conservation thus far?

CHARITY: The highlight has been working so closely with people in the field that I have admired for years.  One recent moment that stands out, Jane Goodall recently saw my artwork in Chicago at the Joint meeting of the International Primatological Society and the American Society of Primatologists and she told me that I capture the primates souls in my artwork and that when people see my art it will remind them why we are all working tirelessly to make a positive impact.

BCI: You recently spent time in the DRC. Can you tell us a little about your experience there?

CHARITY:  I did, sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago and others like yesterday.  I was there in 2013 for three months.  I stayed at the sanctuary Lola ya Bonobo and their release site Ekolo ya Bonobo.  It was great being able to see them in their homeland and inspired me to work even harder to keep them free and thriving in their natural habitat.

Charity’s prints, generously donated to BCI, were a hit at the Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco! Photo credit: BCI
Charity’s prints, generously donated to BCI,
were a hit at the Wildlife Conservation Expo
in San Francisco! Photo credit: BCI

BCI: What do you feel are the biggest threats facing bonobos right now and what would you like to see happen to stop those threats.

CHARITY: I think the greatest threat to bonobos is poverty in the DRC which results in local people consuming their resources to make ends meet(forests and wildlife). The instability of the DRC has increased this issue. We must improve our educational outreach opportunities here and in Congo and show the value in saving bonobos (similar to how China has accomplished this with pandas). Come up with sustainable use of    resources and ways to make money.

BCI: In what ways do you feel a regular person here in the US can help bonobos?

CHARITY:  I still ask myself this everyday.  I believe education is very important, and the more we talk about bonobos the more we can inspire others to get involved with protecting them.  Share your love and knowledge of bonobos and take action.  This action does not have to be huge, it is our collective decisions and actions that will make the difference.  Make a pledge to not use products with palm oil (and explain to people why), sign petitions (or start one), arrange an assembly at your school/work to educate your peers, be aware of what you buy as a consumer and where it comes from, sponsor a bonobo, do a mini fundraiser of your own (bike for bonobos).

Every little bit helps and I think sometimes people forget that or think the $10 they can afford isn’t worthy to send.  Just think if this week you asked everyone to send $5 to support bonobos instead of buying a fancy coffee before work…. it adds up pretty quickly!  Don’t believe me….. try it!

Farewell to a Friend Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0000 Read more]]> We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of our most cherished partners. Donald MacGregor Tuttle, founder and CEO of Jadora International, passed away on September 24 at the age of 50. He was a true visionary and, in the words of his family, “an advocate of all things wild and vulnerable.” Through his work at Jadora, he left behind an incredible legacy of creative and transformational conservation.

Donald MacGregor Tuttle; Photo obtained from
Donald MacGregor Tuttle
Photo from

Jadora’s mission is to “mitigate climate change, preserve biodiversity, and improve livelihoods through an innovative and economically sustainable approach to forest preservation.” A pioneer in the carbon credit industry, Don Tuttle helped implement REDD+ programs (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Jadora manages programs in an area of the DRC that is the size Michigan–and is still growing.

We at BCI are honored to call Don a friend and collaborator. We have been partnering with Jadora to create a forest carbon program in the Sankuru Nature Reserve. The work will continue and many lives will be changed for the better, all thanks to Don and his wonderful leadership.

Though he will be deeply missed, his life will serve as an inspiration and as a testament to the power of partnership.