What are bonobos?
If you know what a bonobo is, or can tell a bonobo apart from a chimpanzee,
then you are one of a few very special people.
Not many people know that we have another close relative besides the chimpanzee.
Like chimpanzees, bonobos share 98.7% of our DNA. Chimpanzees and bonobos look very similar. But if you look closely, you’ll see that bonobos are a little smaller, with pink lips, black faces, and a very attractive hairstyle with long black hair neatly parted in the middle. The first two toes of bonobos have a little bit of webbing. While chimpanzees
have low, loud voices, bonobos are very high pitched. Also, bonobo mothers have
breasts that look a lot like humans.
Make Love Not War!
But when you get to know bonobos, you’ll see they couldn’t be more different.
Like humans, chimpanzees have war. The males are in charge, and they can occasionally be very violent. Sometimes they even kill each other.
Bonobos do not kill each other. The females are in charge of the group and they seem
to keep everyone’s temper under control with sexual activity. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or if you’re male or female – if you’re a bonobo, sex plays a big part in living together peacefully.
Why are bonobos in danger?
(Below) Bonobos are often victims of the bushmeat trade. Snares are traps can inflict serious injuries.
Think of the last time you were at a football stadium that seated 75,000 people. If you could convince all the bonobos in the world to come to the game, you could not come close to filling it. Bonobos are one of the rarest of the great apes. There is, at best, one bonobo for every 147,000 people on Earth. The extinction of our closest living relative in our own lifetime is a real possibility.
The best estimates of the number of bonobos left in the wild are somewhere between 5,000–50,000 – all of them live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With their whole population in a single country, bonobos still share all the problems of population fragmentation, habitat loss, and victimization due to the bushmeat trade practice with their African cousins. Many bonobo infants are sold as pets, or for use in witchcraft.
In 2003, Congo survived a decade long war that may have killed as many as four million people
– more than any war since World War II. The instability of the Congo has made it almost impossible to study bonobos, find out where they are or how many are left. With peace newly returned, the next decade will be crucial in determining whether bonobos survive the next generation.