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Columbus Zoo mourns loss of bonobo named Toby

Toby (2), Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.JPG
Posted at 10:29 PM, Feb 18, 2022

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is mourning the loss of Toby, a beloved male bonobo who was considered to be the second most genetically valuable male in the globally managed bonobo population.

Estimated to be 42 years old, Toby exceeded the median life expectancy of 31.3 years for male bonobos in human care.

Several years ago, Toby was diagnosed with high blood pressure that was being treated, but on Wednesday, he suffered a stroke and never regained consciousness.

After emergency care and consultation with specialists who came to the conclusion that he wouldn't recover, it was decided to humanely euthanize him.

Toby, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.JPG
Bonobo Toby.

Toby was among three other bonobos who came to the Columbus Zoo in 1990 from the Limburgse Zoo in Belgium. While at the Columbus Zoo, he sired three offspring.

“His devoted care team fondly remembers Toby for his squeals and grunts of excitement (especially when he had a mouthful of food and biscuits); the way he nodded his head and reached his hand out to greet his care team; how he spent quality “boy time” with Gander (an adorable duo with one of the smallest males hanging out with one of the largest males); his friendly, easy-going nature and ability to bring a smile to everyone’s faces; and for being the king of “bed head” due to his “crazy” hair,” the zoo said in a news release.

He was a favorite among guests who were lucky to learn more about a rare great ape species. Research has shown that bonobos and chimpanzees are more closely related genetically to humans than they are to gorillas. In fact, bonobos are humans’ closest living relatives, and we share 98.7% of the same DNA.

Toby (3), Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.jpg
Bonobo Toby.

Bonobos are the least known of the ape species. Only about 5,000 to 20,000 bonobos are estimated to be living in a very small range in the equatorial forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Bonobos are gentle, playful, and highly intelligent, and—unfortunately—still very much in need of conservation support and awareness as they continue to face serious threats in their native range. We are proud that the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium serves a direct role in working to protect them and contributing to knowledge about this rare species. Toby was beloved by his Animal Care team and our guests, and he will always hold a very special place in our hearts. As one of the original founders of the Columbus Zoo’s bonobo program, Toby had a tremendous impact on the future of his species,” said Audra Meinelt, curator of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Congo Expedition region.

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