Adorable Photo Shows Endangered Baby Bonobo Named Love Born at U.K. Zoo

An baby bonobo has been born in the U.K for the first time in two years. Twycross Zoo, in Leicestershire, England, said it was a "hugely exciting" arrival.

The baby—named Upendi, which means "love" in Swahili—was born to Cheka, a 25-year-old bonobo. Veterinarians discovered Cheka was pregnant shortly after she moved into a new enclosure in September 2021. Bonobos are pregnant for around 240 days.

The global bonobo population is decreasing, mainly due to habitat loss and the illegal bushmeat trade. Despite them being one of our closest relatives, a lot about the ape is still unknown.

In the wild, they live only in the central rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are thought to be as little as 10,000 bonobos remaining in the wild, however population estimations are hard to determine for several reasons. Their habitat is remote, and only accessible by boat or plane. Research into the species was also disrupted in the early 1990s by political unrest in the country.

Twycross Zoo is the only zoo in the U.K. to house bonobo apes. The species is not common in zoos—in 2020, The Zoo Society said there were approximately 90 bonobos living in seven zoological institutions in the U.S, and approximately 120 bonobos living in European zoos. Twycross Zoo is home to 10 percent of the entire European population.

In a press release, Rebecca Biddle, head of life sciences at Twycross Zoo, said: "The arrival of our new baby bonobo is an amazing achievement for the zoo. As a conservation charity acting to preserve the future of these incredible animals, the new baby is a significant boost for the European population of this endangered species."

The zoo said that it is vital it works closely with other institutions to ensure that their population of bonobos is sustainable for the long term.

Bonobo
The baby has been named Upendi, which means love in Swahili Twycross Zoo

Bonobos are female-led and known for their caring and affectionate nature. Researchers have often observed them holding hands and hugging, as well as looking after each other in the wild. They tend to nurse and carry their young for five years.

Family planning for captive bonobos is difficult. They have complex social structures, where mating is important for social bonds as well as reproduction. In zoos, their fertility has to be managed carefully in order to get a positive result.

Visitors to the zoo will be able to view the baby on the week commencing February 14, which is also world bonobo day.