We celebrated the first every World Bonobo Day on February 14th (a day you may also know as Valentine’s Day…), in collaboration with the Anthropology Department at UCSD, and, of course, The Bonobo Project.
Bonobos only exist in the forests of the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. There are only about 15,000 bonobos left in the wild. The Bonobo Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of bonobos, worked to get a California Senate Resolution, authored by Senator Isadore Hall III, making Valentine’s Day also officially World Bonobo Day. This is a day aimed at coming together not only to celebrate bonobos, but also to learn more about them, raise awareness about their endangered status, and, hopefully, to raise funds for bonobo conservation efforts.
Bonobos are fascinating animals. We actually share 98.7% of our DNA with bonobos, making them our closest relatives after chimpanzees. Among the things that make bonobos fascinating is that they are the most peaceful of the great apes. It has been proven that bonobos are xenophilic, and will choose to share with and help bonobo strangers, even new immigrants to their group. There has never even been a recorded instance of a bonobo killing another bonobo. Bonobos are sexually fluid, and they use sex to relieve tension between conspecifics. Bonobos are matriarchal, meaning that female bonobos rank higher than males. Females form tolerant coalitions, which are thought to limit aggression in bonobo groups.
In the past, bonobos have been an understudied species (with most of the focus being on chimpanzees instead). However, because we are so closely related to bonobos, the scientific community is beginning to realize that we may have a lot to learn about bonobos, especially what makes their peaceful and xenophilic communities possible.
CCL continues to conduct research on bonobos, including our on-going infant primate gesture ritualization project.