The Bonobos

The bonobos are endangered apes that look similar to the chimpanzees with which they share a DNA of 99.6% and 98.7% of their DNA with humans making them our closest relatives. They are also historically regarded as the pygmy chimpanzees less often the dwarf chimpanzees that are a bit smaller in size and today recognized as a distinct species. The phrase “pygmy” was given to this primate species by Ernst Schwarz a German zoologist in 1929 while its bonobo name first appeared in 1954 when Eduard Paul and Heinz Heck proposed it as a new generic term for  . The bonobo name was derived from the town of Bolobo on the Congo River near a place where their specimens were first collected in 1920s. However these bonobos are distinguished from the common chimpanzees by relatively long limbs, a tail-turf, a darker face, pinker lips through their adulthood and parted longer hair on their head. Female bonobos have more prominent breasts compared to the flat breasts of the chimpanzees though not prominent like those of humans.

The bonobos are predominantly frugivorous that is to say they thrive mostly on raw fruits or succulent fruit like produce of plants such as nuts, seeds, shoots and roots. They also regularly eat ants, termites, worms and occasionally eat small mammals and fish. Unlike the chimpanzees, the bonobos communities range in size between 30 to 80 individuals which are led by females. The bonobos live in fission-fusion communities implying that they breakup into small groups more so in the morning in search for their food and get back to form large groups in the evening especially in times of making nests for a night. These primate species are less aggressive compared to other primates although they can easily engage in a serious fight when two different groups come together. They maintain their relationships and settle conflicts through sex and genital rubbing.

The bonobo females often give birth for the first time at 13 to 14 years of age, nurse their young ones for 4 years and give birth on average every 4 to 6 years making their reproductive rates to be low compared to those of the chimpanzees. These primates are regarded as sex addicts since all of its family members engage in sex activities such as infants having sex with adult males and adult females although without penetration which is regarded as a passive involvement. The highly sexual nature of the bonobo implies that there is no or less competition for mates meaning that they all do mate amongst themselves which is a counterstrategy for the female bonobos to confuse their infants’ paternity.

The bonobos can only be found in rainforests of Democratic Republic of Congo South of the Congo River and north of the Kasai River which is a tributary of the Congo River. The Congo River acts as a boundary of both the bonobos and the chimpanzees since the live to its south while the chimpanzees are found in its north. The bonobos are still facing imminent threats that have compelled them to be classified as endangered species on the Red list of threatened species and the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species. These threats include habitat loss to human settlement and agriculture, poaching or hunting them down for bushmeat, political instability and civil conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo which have dramatically increased threats to this species and have made their conservation efforts challenging.

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