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Twycross Zoo receives BIAZA Bronze Award in recognition of bonobo care

28th Jun 2023

Leading conservation charity Twycross Zoo has been recognised with an industry award celebrating excellence in animal care.

The Zoo has received a BIAZA Bronze Award for excellence in ‘Animal Husbandry, Care and Breeding’ in recognition of the highly-skilled animal and veterinary team’s work to improve the health and welfare of its bonobo group.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is the professional body representing the best zoos and aquariums in the UK and Ireland, and its annual awards celebrates excellence in the industry.

Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire has been recognised for its work in administering a programme of influenza vaccinations to its bonobo group, to help protect and improve their health and wellbeing. The Zoo holds a family of 13 bonobos, including Lina (female aged 36), Lucuma (male aged 18), Rubani (male aged 5) and toddler Lola (female aged three).

Due to their close genetic relationship, bonobos are susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans, including the influenza virus. Influenza can have serious consequences and in order to improve protection for the bonobos held at the Zoo, a programme of influenza vaccination was introduced.

The programme has seen great success to date, with 11 bonobos successfully vaccinated during the 2019/2020 flu season, and seven bonobos in 2020/2021. The programme was then expanded and in 2021/2022, a total of 23 animals were vaccinated; 11 bonobos, eight chimpanzees and five gorillas.

As a conservation charity, Twycross Zoo’s primary purpose is to preserve and protect the species with whom we share our planet. It is the only zoo in the UK to hold bonobos, an endangered species from the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are less than 20,000 individuals left in the wild, due to threats such as deforestation and poaching.

Dr Rebecca Biddle, Director of Conservation at Twycross Zoo, said:

“We’re delighted to receive this award in recognition of our bonobo care and husbandry programme. As a conservation charity and Zoo, we’re incredibly proud of our work in helping to protect and preserve the four great apes – including bonobos – which are currently listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.

“This important programme has had an extremely positive impact on preventative health in our bonobo group, with a marked reduction in respiratory disease which is so encouraging to see. The health and welfare of all our animals is of upmost importance and we’re committed to delivering best-in-class husbandry and care, including preventative health care strategies such as these, to ensure that we can protect these endangered species for future generations.”

All staff members undertook training with the experienced in-house veterinary team to administer the vaccinations via positive reinforcement training, allowing the animals to participate in the programme voluntarily and with minimal stress or discomfort.

Twycross Zoo is renowned as the only Zoo in the UK, and one of only four worldwide, to house all four great apes – gorilla, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo – and holds 10 per cent of the European population of bonobos.


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