The Zoo regrets to share that Laura, the oldest bonobo in its animal population, was humanely euthanized on Dec. 14. The animal care team made this difficult decision due to declining quality of life. Laura had a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney disease — all of which she was being treated for. She will be mourned and deeply missed.
Incredibly, Laura was 55 years old and lived at the Milwaukee County Zoo for nearly 29 years. (The median life expectancy of bonobos in human care is 31 years old.) The status of bonobos is Endangered, and they’re found in the wild only in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Laura was born at the San Diego Zoo on August 27, 1967, and she arrived at MCZ with her son, Murph, from the National Primate Research Center of Emory University in Atlanta. Laura was a beloved member of her troop, engaging with her care team, MCZ volunteers, and visitors alike. She was the mother of six offspring and the matriarch of the troop for many years. Zookeepers share that Laura acknowledged people she knew well with interested vocalizations, even asking for belly scratches between mesh. She would give a head bob to familiar people and sometimes even go over to the glass barrier to greet them. She enjoyed interacting and training with her care team and would laugh hard when they tickled her toes. Laura also spent much time grooming with her family and other members of the troop and enjoyed playing with the young ones. She also provided comfort to other bonobos during challenging days.
Numerous members of Laura’s “family” from the animal care team — past and present — were able to stop by and say their goodbyes. The bonobos, acting a bit quiet and reserved, were allowed to visit her off-exhibit after she passed. It will be an adjustment for the troop, especially Laura’s son, Murph, who has been frequently groomed by the others since her passing.
Bonobos are the closest living relatives of humans, sharing 98.7% of our DNA. In the wild, they live in the rainforest of the Congo Basin, the second-largest rainforest in the world. Bonobos face threats from human encroachment/deforestation and the bushmeat trade. You can honor Laura’s memory and support her species by visiting the organization Lola Ya Bonobo at https://www.bonobos.org.