Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have signed two petitions calling on a German zoo to return Bili, a bonobo ape who was being "bullied" by fellow apes, to the United Kingdom.
The petitions, which have gathered more than 400,000 signatures, call on the authorities at the zoo in the western German city of Wuppertal to release Bili to an ape sanctuary in the UK.
Bili was born in the UK in 2008 and was brought to the Wuppertal zoo from Frankfurt last November in the hope of finding him a mate. But his integration into his new home has not gone as per plan.
Bili has yet to be accepted by his fellow inmates, who attack him frequently. His plight was captured in pictures that showed him bleeding with bite wounds with part of his ear missing.
"His (Bili's) new 'zoomates,' twin males Azibo and Ayubu, have decided they want nothing to do with him and have viciously bullied him nonstop," one of the petitions said.
The zoo has refuted claims of bullying. It says aggression is common during the integration process, especially in the case of male bonobos.
"Bonobos are often portrayed as extremely peace-loving. This is wrong," Wuppertal Zoo Director Arne Lawrenz told DW. "They often get into quarrels — no matter if they live in the wild or in zoos. This can lead to injuries such as bitten fingers and ears."
Lawrenz said the aggression against Bili had decreased and the ape was more relaxed in the presence of the dominant female.
Females are known to be the dominant ones among bonobo groups. Along with chimpanzees, bonobos are humans' closest relatives with close to 99 percent of their genomes in common.
Welsh adoption offer
A Welsh monkey and ape sanctuary on Tuesday offered to adopt Bili. But Wuppertal zoo officials rejected the offer, saying the sanctuary had no experience dealing with bonobos.
"Zoo officials still think there is a chance Bili can be integrated into the community of his fellow chimps but others aren't so sure," the petition said.