A German zoo has rejected a petition with almost 300,000 signatures demanding that a bullied British ape be allowed to return to the UK after repeated violent attacks by his new chimpanzee family.
Bili the bonobo was born at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire in 2008, but was rejected by his mother and sent to a zoo in Frankfurt before ending up in Wuppertal, in western Germany.
The monkeys at the zoo in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia have not accepted Bili, and their attacks have previously left him with horrific open, bleeding wounds.
The campaign to save bullied chimpanzee Bili, pictured with his injuries, has had hundreds of thousands of signatures, but the zoo still refuses to have him moved let alone sent to the UK
Bonobo Bili is trying to protect himself on the ground while surrounded by the other apes in the troop who are attacking him
A petition to have Bili returned to the UK and rehoused at the ‘Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre’ near Bovington, in Dorset, England, was launched earlier this year.
However, despite nearly 290,000 signatures, a governing body for German zoos has said there is no other option for Bili than to stay in Wuppertal, and claimed the brutal attacks by other apes was ‘natural behaviour’.
Volker Homes, managing director of the Association of Zoological Gardens (VdZ), said: ‘The situation at a new home would not improve, and may even worsen. The aggressive behaviour corresponds to their natural behaviour.’
Mr Homes added that it would not be possible to take Bili out of the troop and into a private enclosure.
Homes said: ‘He would have no contact with members of his species and for socially-conditioned animals such as bonobos that would be a disaster.’
The British-born chimpanzee Bili is being still bullied by German apes at Wuppertal zoo who have not accepted him into the troop. He is seen hunched in the corner of the enclosure as a larger apes attack him
Bili was sitting on a platform in the bonobo enclosure at Wuppertal Zoo when he was violently pulled down and set upon by the pack
Bonobo Bili has even had part of his ear bitten off, and animal rights activists want him to be sent back to England
The petition ‘Save Bonobo Bili from Wuppertal Zoo’ was started by Petra Bente, who says he has been severely traumatised since being sent to the zoo in western Germany
Sending Bili back to Frankfurt was also taken off the table as the arrival of two new female bonobos in that troop would highly complicate Bili’s reintegration there.
Homes said that zookeepers at Wuppertal Zoo are doing everything they can for Bili and there are signs of a possible improvement of the situation.
He said: ‘Due to the temporary division of the monkey group into smaller units, there are now significantly calmer animals with Bili, who has noticeably relaxed.
Bili was sent to Germany from Twycross Zoo after his mother Maringa failed to care for him.
He was first flown to Frankfurt in January 2009, where he was adopted by loving female chimps who had previously brought up orphaned youngsters.
Bili was brought to Wuppertal Zoo for as part of a conservation programme as Bonobos are an endangered species, but can be seen here nursing open wounds
A promising start: Four-month old Bili was in Frankfurt settling in well, but life has taken a darker turn since he was ostracised and attacked by his fellow great apes
He reportedly integrated well in the group, but despite that in autumn last year he was sent to Wuppertal Zoo at the recommendation of the Specialist Group of the European Zoological Community and the European Conservation Breeding Program.
But according to animal welfare organisations bonobo Bili has been severely traumatised since being sent to the German zoo.
The brutal bullying of Bili the bonobo was recently captured on video, filmed by a Wuppertal Zoo visitor.
The footage shows Bili sitting on a raised platform in the chimpanzee enclosure as some other bonobos try to push him off. Only when one violently pulls Bili’s arm does he fall down.
The little ape looked relaxed before snuggling in amongst other passengers on the flight from Birmingham to Frankfurt
Grasping his ‘passport’ excitedly Bili and his keepers looked forward to him finding a better life in Germany
This adorable mock-up ‘passport’ records the bonobo as having – perhaps unsurprisingly – brown hair and brown eyes
Almost the entire troop of bonobos then jump on Bili and start to beat him, while another zoo visitor can be heard shouting ‘no, no!’ in German.
Bili tries to escape into a corner and protect his body from the blows by making himself as small as possible with his arms around his face.
Zoo spokesman Andreas Haser-Kalthoff said: ‘Such images are not nice. But it is part of the integration of the ape in the troop.’
Bonobos are also known as pygmy chimpanzees, but are technically a separate species. They are, as their nickname alludes, smaller than chimpanzees and highly endangered.
In the wild they can only be found in one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is feared only a few thousand specimen remain.
- The ‘Save Bonobo Bili from Wuppertal Zoo’ petition can be signed here.