Lola Ya Bonobo is a unique place: a bonobo rescue, rehabilitation and release center in DRC, the native homeland of the species. There are estimated to be no more than 20,000 bonobos left in the DRC wild, and they are relegated to the Congo Basin.
Bonobos are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List as well as on Appendix 1 of CITES, which means it is illegal to trade in them. However, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans are all trafficked heavily around the world nonetheless.
A comprehensive 2013 report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), "Stolen Apes," expounds on the dreadful trade, which is lorded over by traffickers who have carved out effective routes to shuttle the apes from Africa to the Middle East, Asia and beyond.
The report provides examples of the horrors of the trade. In one especially heinous account, infant apes were confiscated by officials at the Cairo airport in 2001, and despite "urgent efforts" by animal welfare NGOs, the baby apes were euthanized by drowning them in a vat of chemicals. In 2006, a young chimpanzee was found during a crime bust in Cameroon - wedged between sacks of marijuana in the trunk of a car. Over the past few years, investigations have unearthed a trail of nearly 140 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas being illegally trafficked to China, some headed to spend their lives behind bars in zoos.