By Karen Billing
Solana Beach resident Debbie Sandler is continuing her efforts to raise awareness for endangered bonobos, co-sponsoring several local events where the public can meet Claudine André, a conservation expert on the species.
Since 1994, André has run Lola ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for orphaned bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is making a stop in San Diego on a rare tour of the west coast and will participate in two events held in Carmel Valley and Solana Beach.
“With no formal education in primatology or any other animal science she is an unexpected candidate to achieve landmark accomplishments for one of the great ape species,” wrote Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken in the book “Wildlife Heroes,” a book that profiled 40 leading conservationists and the animals they seek to protect.
“She’s one of the angels of the world,” Sandler said.
The first event where the public can meet the prominent bonobo activist will be a wine tasting reception hosted by the Sandlers on Thursday, Sept. 26, at Carruth Cellars on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach from 7-9 p.m. Space is limited for Thursday’s wine tasting event, so please RSVP to the Sandlers at
to be included on the guest list. The evening will include a meet and greet with André, and samplings of Carruth’s artisan, boutique wines.
The second event will be a SeptemberFest Beerfest at Pacific Sports Resort (previously knows as the Pacific Athletic Club) in Carmel Valley on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 4-7 p.m. The event is a Saving the Wild Things event, raising funds for Friends of Bonobos. The SeptemberFest Beerfest will feature beers from Ballast Point Brewery, bites, live music and a presentation from André. There will also be an opportunity drawing on a trip to Lola ya Bonobo. Tickets to SeptemberFest are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. More information can be found at savingwildthings.org.
Currently there are 65 bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo, the world’s only bonobo sanctuary. The number of bonobos left in the wild is unknown but it could be as little as 10,000.
The San Diego Zoo is one of only of seven in the United States to have bonobos in captivity. There are currently 12 bonobos in the group at the zoo.
The bonobo is one of the four great apes (which also includes chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans), and the bonobos are the least known and the most rare.
As the bonobos live exclusively in the Congo there is a degree of difficulty for researchers obtaining access to the animals as much of the country has been engaged in conflict since 1998.
Bonobos and chimps are humans’ closest relatives, sharing 98.7 percent of human DNA.
Apes, like chimps, live in a male-dominated society with infanticide and war, but the bonobos are female dominated, they are more peaceful and sexual behavior is used as a way to resolve conflicts.
“They are important to protect because they provide a model, both socially and genetically, to show that it is possible for hominids to live without war,” Sandler said. “If bonobos go extinct, there will be no way for researchers to discover the exact mechanisms by which humans’ closest living relatives live in peace.”