Skip to Main Content
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Bonobo (Pan paniscus) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Bonobo (Pan paniscus)

Population Status

Population estimates

  • Range not yet fully surveyed; minimum population of 15,000-20,000 individuals (Fruth et al. 2016)
    • Potential range is estimated at about 500,000 km sq (193,051 mi sq) IUCN Redlist (2009 version) but populations within are not contiguous today and may not have been contiguous in historic times (Grossmann 2008)

Protected areas

  • Bonobos occupy land protected since 2006 in the Faunal Reserve of Lomako-Yokokala and the Tumba-Lediima Natural Reserve. (IUCN 2009)
  • Bonobos live in Sankuru Nature Reserve; this new reserve established in 2007
    • Occupies (28,490 sq km) 11,000 sq mi
    • Adjoins a proposed Bonobo Peace Forest in central Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Largest protected area in Africa at present (2008) is in Salonga National Park, Congo.
    • Became a National Park in 1970; designated a World Heritage site in 1984
    • Occupies 33,346 sq km (12,875 sq mi)
  • A sanctuary established at Lola ya Bonobo near Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo offers care for rescued bonobos and support for conservation efforts. (André et al 2008)
    • Before this sanctuary was established , conservation laws were not able to prevent illegal trade.
    • More bonobos arrived at the sanctuary during a decade of wars, and continued to arrive in greater numbers even after hostilities ceased.
      • Increased awareness by the locals, resumption of forest exploitation, and human population displacements may be factors in the more recent high number of bonobos being confiscated.
    • Education of children and civil servants are important aspects of the bonobo conservation efforts.
    • Planning is underway (as of 2008) for the release into the wild of some individuals from managed care; although risky, this is one potential tool "to make sure that wild populations remain viable"

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Endangered (2016 assessment) (Fruth et al. 2016)

CITES Status

U.S. Endangered Species Act

African Convention on Nature and Wildlife

  • Class A

Threats to Survival


  • Until the present, bonobos were protected simply because they occupied areas that were largely isolated from human contact; a developing Congo economy with increasing exploitation of resources plus political instability pose serious threats (Grossmann 2008)
  • Habitat loss due to human population pressures, slash and burn agriculture and commercial forestry.
  • Subsistence hunting for meat (although it is is less of a threat than the commercial hunting)
  • Expansion of the bushmeat trade promoted by lumber companies. (Dupain & Van Elsacker 2001)
  • Occasionally hunted for medicinal or magical purposes (various body parts are used as charms for strength or sexual vitality).
  • Infants are captured by killing the mother and kept as pets or presented as gifts to visiting dignitaries. Infants and juveniles currently sold to zoological gardens and laboratories in Europe and Asia
  • Civil war between 1996-2002 and a weakened National Park system, plus availability of modern weapons all hindered conservation efforts
  • Infectious disease threats from close contact with humans.

Page Citations

André et al. (2008)
Butynski (2001)
Dupain & Van Elsacker (2001)
Furuichi & Thompson (2008)
Grossmann et al. (2008)
Myers & Thompson (1997)
IUCN Redlist (2009)

SDZWA Library Links