The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What is a Bonobo Ape?

It is difficult to answer the question: "What is a Bonobo?" Bonobos are complex beings with profound intelligence, emotionality, and sensitivity. It's like asking the question: "What is a human?" And, how do you answer? Philosophers, scientists, and mystics have been trying to figure it out for thousands of years!

Biologically speaking, bonobos are the closest you can get to being human without being human. Bonobos look more like humans than other apes, and display many behavioral similarities as well. Bonobos and people share more than 98% of the same genetic make-up (DNA). Bonobos and their cousins the chimpanzees, are more closely related genetically to us than they are to gorillas! But, like gorillas, they dwell only in the equatorial forests of central Africa, the cradle of humanity itself.

Bonobos are great apes, along with chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. Because we share so many characteristics with these simian species, some scientists contend that humans should be classified as apes too. Indigenous people who have dwelled among bonobos in the Congo forest have many legends about how bonobos and man were brothers in the distant past. They tell stories about how bonobos showed people what foods to eat in the forest, how a bonobo saved a man who needed help, how bonobos themselves are trying to become human.
These apes have fascinated indigenous people of Africa for hundreds, even thousands of years, yet to most of the world's population, they have been known to exist only for the span of one lifetime. Bonobos were not discovered by scientists until 1933, and even then, not alive, but in the Tervuren Museum in Belgium, identified by means of a skull. Classified as Pan paniscus, bonobos have been studied in the wild and in captivity for about 30 years, since the mid-1970s. They dwell in the tropical forests of the Congo Basin south of the Congo River. Bonobos are found in only one country: the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire), a resource-rich region ravaged by years of war.
Although more research is needed to determine current populations, we do know that that their numbers have been decimated during the war. Urgent help is needed.

A Different Breed of Ape

Bonobos stand apart from the other great apes in fascinating and important ways.

Physically, their anatomy most closely resembles Australopithecus, our early human ancestor. Bonobos walk bipedally, on two feet, more easily and for longer periods of time than the other apes. They are highly intelligent. Some bonobos in captivity have even learned to use human language! But perhaps the most compelling feature of bonobos is their society.

Peaceful and powered by females
... In contrast to the competitive, male-dominated culture of their close relative the chimpanzee, bonobo society is peaceful, matriarchal and more egalitarian. Bonobos live in large groups where harmonious coexistence is the norm. While in many ways, males and females have "separate but equal" roles, females carry the highest rank, and the sons of ranking females are the leaders among males. Females form close bonds and alliances, which is another way they maintain their power among males, who are larger and stronger physically.

Like chimps, bonobo society is "male philopatric," meaning that the females migrate to other groups when they reach puberty. This eliminates the chance of incest and increases genetic diversity. However, the wild bonobo population is so fragmented now in the Congo, with small groups living in isolated pockets, that the sustainability of the species is severely threatened. It will be critical for us to establish protected areas and corridors to provide for genetic viability of the species. However, bonobos share a human landscape, and our work with indigenous Congolese people is an important aspect of bonobo conservation. Learn about BCI's programs to protect bonobos.

"Make Love, Not War"

Bonobos seem to ascribe to the 1960s hippie credo, "make love, not war." They make a lot of love, and do so in every conceivable fashion. Beyond that, they are very loving too, showing care and compassion for each other in many ways. Sex in bonobo society transcends reproduction, as it does in humans. It serves as a way of bonding, exchanging energy and sharing pleasure.

Bonobos have been described as "pansexual" by psychologist Frans de Waal. Sex permeates the fabric of bonobo society, weaving through all aspects of daily life. It serves an important function in keeping the society together, maintaining peaceful, cooperative relations. Besides heterosexual contact, both male and female bonobos engage in same-sex encounters, and even group sex occurs. Female-female contact, or "GG-rubbing," is actually the most common. Unlike other apes, bonobos frequently copulate face-to-face, looking into each others eyes. When bonobo groups meet in the forest, they greet each other, bond sexually, and share food instead of fighting. Likewise, almost any conflict between bonobos is eased by sexual activity, grooming, or sharing food.
Like humans, bonobo females are sexually receptive throughout most of their estrus cycle. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), on the other hand, only mate during the few days when a female is fertile. Generally, the ranking males in chimp society "get the girls." Male chimps make macho displays to impress females and can be quite vehement in their demands. Consequently, chimp females do not have much control over who they mate with. Bonobo males tend to be a bit more polite. They ask first, by displaying themselves in a persuasive but non-aggressive manner, offering food or making other propositions - and bonobo females have the right to refuse.
The sexual aspect of bonobo behavior is best understood in the context of bonobo culture. Sex does not necessarily mean the same thing to a bonobo that it does to a human. However, it raises compelling questions about the roots of human nature, and is particularly striking in contrast to chimpanzee society. Scholars continue to study this unique phenomenon and debate its implications.

Swingin' in the Trees ... Singin' in the Breeze

What's it like to come upon a group of bonobos in the forest? First of all, you'd better look up! Bonobos spend a lot of time high in the rainforest canopy. These acrobatic apes move through the trees swiftly and gracefully, maneuvering through the forest to forage on fruit and other foods. They also travel on the ground, often single file along their own sort of trail system. They tend to like swampy areas, where sometimes they dig for grubs or small crustaceons. Bonobos have complex mind maps of the forest and coordinate travel through vocalizations and other forms of communication people do not yet understand.
Bonobos live in groups of up to 100, breaking up into foraging groups by day and gathering to nest at night, in a fission-fusion modality. When bonobos gather in the trees to make their night nests, they fill the twilight with a symphony of soprano squeals. Their high-pitched vocalizations sound like a flock of exotic birds, compared to the more gutteral hoots of chimpanzees.
Bonobos eat a variety of foods, including fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts, vegetation, and mushrooms. They eat various parts of plants, including the leaves, flowers, bark, stems, pith, and roots. They also eat small mammals, insect larvae, earthworms, honey, eggs, and soil. Unlike chimpanzees who form hunting parties to capture monkeys, bonobos do not aggressively hunt mammals. On rare occasions, they have been observed to capture duikers (small antelope) or flying squirrels, but this seems to be circumstantial.

Bonobos do forage for "mbindjos," or caterpillars, the larvae of various butterfly species. Mbindjos are also collected and eaten by local villagers who share the forest with bonobos. In fact, indigenous people of the Congo Basin and bonobos eat many of the same foods.

Life Stage Age (years)
Nursing Period 0-5
First Genital swelling 7
Begins to wander between groups 8
Settles into new group 9-13
Menarche and first-sized swelling 10
Growth-cessation 14-16
First offspring 13-15
Cessation of ovulation 40
Longevity 50-55
Number of offspring possible in lifetime: 5-6

Information Credit Here, photos and to donate to the BCI

No comments:

Post a Comment