Baby monkey given own seat on plane with human passengers as he flies to Germany to meet his new mother

By Andy Dolan
22 January 2009

With passport in hand, and a ready smile, here's one cheeky passenger who's guaranteed a warm welcome at the check-in desk.

Bili the bonobo chimp left fellow travellers bemused as he settled down in his own seat with a one-way ticket to a new life at a German zoo.

The three-month-old ape had his own animal export documents for the Lufthansa flight from Birmingham to Frankfurt but was given a special pretend passport complete with his name and picture.

Three-month-old bonobo Bili checks in at Birmingham Airport with his keeper as he heads to Frankfurt to meet his new mother

Wrapped in the white cotton security blanket he has been nursed in since he was born, Bili could have been mistaken for a baby as he clutched on to his new keeper.

The bonobo, a species formerly known as the pygmy chimpanzee, was rejected by his birth mother Maringa at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire.

He had to be be hand-reared by staff until he was old enough to join a new bonobo group at Frankfurt Zoo, where the female bonobo has been trained in fostering.


Ready for Customs: Bili's passport

Kim Riley, spokesman at Twycross Zoo, said Bili's German keeper had travelled over a few days before the journey so the pair could get to know each other.

Bili had his own animal export documents for the journey but was given a special pretend passport complete with his name and picture for the trip.

Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are one of the two species making up the chimpanzee genus, Pan.

Like the other species, Pan troglodytes, or the Common Chimpanzee, they are the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 99.6 per cent of our genetic make-up.

Miss Riley said staff had worked around the clock to feed Bili bottles of baby milk every two hours after he was rejected by his mother.

The tiny baby flew to a German zoo after being rejected by his birth mother Maringa at Twycross Zoo

She added: 'When he was born his mum just wasn't interested in him. It sometimes happens with first-time mums that they just don't know what to do with the baby.

'We kept hoping that they would bond, but after two or three days Bili was cold and hungry and so we had to pull him out of the enclosure.'

She said Bili's new foster mum has been trained to carry him around, keep him warm and take him to keepers when he needs feeding.

Bonobos are on the endangered list and are only found in the wild in one country; The Democratic Republic of Congo - where there are estimated to be less than 10,000 left.

Bili was named after a river in the region.

The tiny apes have highly individual faces and often walk upright, unlike common chimpanzees.

Their varied diet includes both vegetation, fruit, nuts and seeds, and also small mammals, honey and eggs.