Bonobo Species Survival Plan
Since 1988 the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) has been the headquarters of the Bonobo Species Survival Plan. All Species Survival Plans are under the auspices of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Species Survival Plan© (SSP) is a management program that strives to maintain healthy self-sustaining captive populations of endangered species in zoological facilities throughout North America. The Bonobo SSP contributes to bonobo conservation through research, public education, and field projects, and provides a link between zoos and conservation of wild populations.
All institutions housing bonobos in North America are members of the Bonobo SSP. Bonobos are not commonly found in zoos; as of July 2009, 84 bonobos live in ten zoological institutions in the U.S. and Mexico. In contrast, there are about 270 chimpanzees, 368 western lowland gorillas, and 211 orangutans in AZA U.S. zoos. Because of the small size of the captive bonobo population, intensive management is required to preserve genetic diversity, and achieve demographic stability to ensure a self-sustaining captive population. Furthermore, these management strategies must be conducted on a worldwide basis in order to attain the minimum viable population size required for long-term survival. Toward this end, the Bonobo SSP works in collaboration with our European counterpart, the Bonobo European Endangered Species Program (EEP). Currently, the Bonobo SSP and EEP are developing a joint plan, Bonobo (Pan paniscus) Master Plan 2002: Recommendations for the Global Captive Population. The Master Plan provides breeding and management recommendations for all individual bonobos. Together, the two management groups also published a husbandry manual entitled The Care and Management of Bonobos in Captive Environments. By routinely updating the husbandry manual and supporting behavioral research, the Bonobo SSP and EEP address problems concerning social and reproductive behavior, social development, environmental health, and husbandry standards. Breeding recommendations take into account the social needs of individuals in an effort to preserve normal behavior of the species in captivity.
Each SSP is required to develop a three-year action plan that outlines the program's goals and objectives. SSPs are encouraged to adopt educational projects and field activities in the country of origin to create a direct connection between zoos and field efforts. On behalf of the Bonobo SSP, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee has developed a field program called the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative. The bonobo is an important flagship species for conservation of the highly diverse ecosystem of the Congo Basin. Preservation of bonobo habitat means protection of a broad range of rare, endemic or threatened species sharing this habitat.
What is a bonobo?