The Smart and Swinging Bonobo

Civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has threatened the existence of wild bonobos, while new research on the hypersexual primates challenges their peace-loving reputation.

Paul Raffaelle in Smithsonian Magazine:

Bonobo_nb07It was at Germany’s Frankfurt Zoo some years ago that I first got hooked on bonobos. One of their nicknames is pygmy chimp, and I had expected to see a smaller version of the chimpanzee, with the same swagger and strut in the males and timorous fealty in the females. Bonobos are smaller than chimps, all right—a male weighs about 85 to 95 pounds and a female, 65 to 85 pounds; a male chimpanzee can weigh as much as 135 pounds. But the male bonobos I saw in the zoo, unlike the chimps, did not try to dominate the females. Both males and females strode about the enclosure picking up fruit and mingling with their friends. They looked strangely human with their upright, bipedal gait; long, slim arms and legs; slender neck; and a body whose proportions resemble ours more than they do a chimp’s. More than anything, they reminded me of models I’d seen of Australopithecus afarensis, the “ape man” who walked the African savanna three million years ago.

More here.