Bonobos: Maybe Not Hippies After All

If chimps are the rough-tough bikers of primatedom, bonobos were thought to be the peace-and-love hippies. Or, maybe not.

David Quammen visits Wamba, a research camp created by Kyoto University in the forests of the Congo.

Promptly I saw things that, according to the popular image of the species, I might not have expected. Bonobos quarreled. They hunted for meat. They went hours at a stretch without having sex. This was the animal so renowned for its lubricious, pacific social life?

Then he visits Gottfried Hohmann at Lui Kotale, a Congo research camp of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig.

More huntin’:

they have seen another 21 successful predations, among which eight of the victims were mature duikers, one was a bush baby, and three were monkeys. Bonobos preying on other primates: “This is a regular part of the bonobo diet,” Hohmann said.

Less lovin’:

Sexiness, on the other hand, seemed to him less manifest than others, such as de Waal, had claimed. “I could show Frans some of the behaviors that he would not think are possible in bonobos,” Hohmann said. Infrequent sex, for instance. Yes, there’s a great diversity of sexual acts in the bonobo repertoire, but “a captive setting really amplifies all these behaviors. Bonobo behavior in the wild is different—must be different—because bonobos are very busy making their living, searching for food.”

There are just 15,000-20,000 bonobos left in the wild. They are being hunted by the local humans and sold for bush meat in Congolese local markets.

This hunting and eating of bonobos is tragic, repulsive, and barbaric. There is the killing of an endangered species. There is the near-cannibalistic eating of a close relative. And there is the potential for serious disease. According to Jacques Pepin’s book The Origins of AIDS, HIV-1 jumped from chimps to humans due to the hunting and eating of chimps in the Congo. Wrong on so many levels.


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One response to “Bonobos: Maybe Not Hippies After All

  1. Pingback: Vegetarians: Spirit vs Flesh | Breviosity

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