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Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Bonobos: Animal Fact Series Part 1

So as promised in my last post I am starting a new series of posts here. This series will be on wildlife and more specifically the wildlife I have worked with. I will be giving you facts about these species as well as some of my own observations. So without further ado lets begin.

The bonobo:

Where better to begin than with my old favourite the bonobo? For those of you who have not heard of a bonobo, they are Africa's fourth great ape after chimps, mountain gorilla and lowland gorilla. I worked with these amazing animals back in 2013 for nine months in Lui-Kotale for Max Planck.
The bonobo is endemic to the Democratic republic of Congo (aka DRC). So let's get some basic facts down.

Common Name: Bonobo
Other names: Pygmy chimpanzee, lesser chimpanzee, gracile ape.
Latin name: Pan paniscus
Location: Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
Habitat: Rainforest
Status: Endangered
Population: 30-50,000

So that's the basics covered. Now let us get down to some facts. so where did the name come from? Well In 1928 a scientist named Schwarz was measuring the skull of what was thought to be a juvenile chimp, but turned out to be an adult bonobo. He then named it the pygmy chimpanzee, until an official name change to bonobo in 1954. However Heinz Heck, the man who later officially named the species, used the name bonobo back in 1939 in a paper, but it was not officially adopted at that point. This was thought to be after a village in the Congo named Bolobo, from where a shipping crate containing bonobos had been sent in the 1920’s.

Bonobos have a tendency to be thought of as peaceful loving apes and well that is not quite true. Sure they are less aggressive than chimps having never been observed killing a member of their own species in the wild but they can still be nasty. In captivity, they have been known to bite fingers off others in the enclosure. While I never saw this behaviour in the wild I did see that a few of the bonobos I was with had missing digits. It was also interestingly enough the lower ranking individuals I saw this in.

In captivity, the species mates a lot. An unnatural amount actually as captivity often exaggerates behaviours. They do have sex a lot in the wild but not on the scale of captive ones.

They also hunt. Once thought to only occur in chimpanzees I have witnessed them killing and eating duiker (a small antelope) a monkey and a squirrel.

No tool use has been observed in the wild but they do make nests. In captivity however, they are excellent tool makers. The most intelligent non-human is Kansi, a bonobo.

They are very inquisitive, especially the juveniles who would often stare at me. Some would even come closer. One little one, Evea, took this to the extreme and hit us with some dangling vines.

If you want any more information on bonobos leave a comment or click the contact tab at the top of the page. If there is an animal you would like featured just let me know.