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The critically important work by naturalist Claudine André to save the endangered bonobo apes of the Congo is presented in this visually stunning feature film.

Bonobos: Back to the Wild

 “The best African wildlife adventure film since ‘Born Free’”


BONOBOS: Back to the Wild” is the true story of naturalist Claudine André and her work in the Congo to protect the critically endangered bonobo apes. Sometimes mistakenly referred to as “pygmy Chimpanzees,” bonobos are actually a unique species of primate – and the closest cousin of all to mankind, with a shared genetic code that is 98.7% identical to humans.

Over twenty years ago, Claudine André formed the Lola Ya Bonobo Rescue Center deep in the forest of the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Political unrest and civil war had taken a toll on the economy, and food was becoming scarce. Villagers had grown more aggressive in pursuing live game from the forest as a food source.  Despite their status as a protected species, adult bonobos were being slaughtered for “bush meat” by poachers, who would often keep the baby apes for black-market sale as exotic pets. With the support of the government and local police, Claudine and her team have since rescued over 400 orphaned bonobos and placed them into protective care at her Lola Ya Bonobo Rescue Center.

The film opens with the story of one young bonobo, Beni, in the wilds of the equatorial forest with his extended bonobo tribe.  Their carefree lives are soon interrupted when poachers shoot and kill Beni’s mother, and kidnap and crate him for sale.  While in the custody of the poachers, Beni is abused, teased and malnourished.  However, before he can be sold and shipped overseas, Claudine and a Congolese Policeman successfully locate the poachers and confiscate the young bonobo.

At Lola Ya Bonobo, Beni is nursed back to health by his new, human mothers. He befriends new bonobo playmates, and over the coming years he learns survival skills that will be needed when he reaches maturity. Ultimately, in a bittersweet parting from Claudine and his Lola Ya Bonobo human family, the fully-grown adult Beni is released back into the wild.

The story of Beni’s rescue, rearing to adulthood by a human mother, and release is true and was skillfully chronicled and reenacted by acclaimed French documentary filmmaker Alain Tixier. Shot over a six-month period in the Congo—and featuring stunning visuals—the film presents the most revealing look ever into the lives and loves of mankind’s closest cousin. Claudine André and her successful bonobo achievements have drawn comparisons to Jane Goodall’s work with champanzees and Dian Fossey’s study of gorillas.


Nature Docudrama
DIRECTOR:  Alain Tixier
PRODUCERS:   Jean-Pierre Bailly, Vivian Schilling
PRINCIPAL CAST:  Claudine André, Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall


Lola Ya Bonobo is the world's only bonobo sanctuary.
Click through to learn more and support their work.

Bonobos: Back to the Wild New York Premiere

Visit the links below to learn more about Vivian’s most recent film work:

“As a producer the job description can vary wildly, but always comes with an unshakable companion—the ever present gremlin at your ear whispering that the entire film will fall apart if you stop for a second.”

—Vivian Schilling, “Bonobos Land Across the Atlantic”

Lola Ya Bonobo is the world's only bonobo sanctuary. Click through to learn more and support their work.


1hr 20min (80min)
Documentary, Family


Vivian Schilling 2023 - All Rights Reserved