Baby bonobos are transported to the Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary as traumatized orphans when their mothers are killed by poachers for bush meat. The infant bonobos cling to their dead mothers until they are removed and eventually sold for the pet trade—babies are too small to be valuable for meat.

Lola ya Bonobo has an astonishing team of bonobo “mamas” who act as substitute mothers to the orphan babies. They nurture them like their own children and slowly rebuild their psychological strength. As infants, the baby bonobos become firmly attached to their adopted mamas, and will only trust people who are trusted by their mamas.

I was privileged to spend time in the past few days with three remarkable bonobo mamas and their orphan babies, and my heart melted when one young bonobo, Bikoro, gave me his trust and crawled up into my arms. The emotion I felt is indescribable.

We encourage you to lend your support to the people who are working to secure a future for bonobos in the wild—it’s a big challenge, but it’s possible.

Follow us on @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom as we embark on an expedition with @Ashley_Judd to document bonobos in the wild in the heart of the Congo—their only home in the world.