Powell, OH – Madam Claudine Andre, founder and director of the world’s only sanctuary for the endangered bonobo, will be honored with a $50,000 prize when the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium presents its first Commitment to Conservation Award at a ceremony in Columbus, Ohio, on April 6, 2013.
When a sickly, orphaned bonobo arrived at the Kinshasa Zoo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1993, zoo volunteer Claudine Andre was told that all other bonobos that came to the zoo from the wild invariably died. Not this time. Much to everyone’s surprise, Claudine saved the little ape, and local people began bringing injured and orphaned bonobos to her. When news reached officials from the DRC 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, Andre started the non-profit organization Friends of Bonobos in Congo in 2002 and established the first sanctuary for bonobos on 70 acres of enclosed forest outside of Kinshasa. She and her Congolese staff have rescued and cared for hundreds of bonobos, and in 2010, they organized the first-ever successful reintroduction of the endangered primates back into the wild.
Sometimes called “the forgotten apes,” bonobos are found only in the DRC and they are less studied than the other great apes – gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. Physically and emotionally traumatized and near death, bonobos arrive at Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary (“Bonobo Paradise” in the local language) often as collateral damage from the decades of warfare that has plagued Congo. In addition to providing care and comfort for bonobos, Andre and her colleagues educate thousands of Congolese children and adults and focus on improving existing wildlife trade laws. They reach out directly to hunters and bushmeat traders as the families of orphaned bonobos are often killed in this illegal trade that threatens wildlife and people alike.
Claudine Andre will receive the Commitment to Conservation Award at a ceremony that will launch the biennial event. Recipients of the award are long-term partners of the Zoo who receive support for their work from the Zoo’s Conservation Fund. The award is made possible through proceeds from the Zoo’s annual Wine for Wildlife event.
Each year the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Conservation Grants Program and Partners in Conservation awards more than $1 million in program support for 70 conservation projects in 35 countries.
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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Club. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also operates the Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; contributing more than $1 million annually to support over 70 conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. www.columbuszoo.org