News / Science & Technology

Free-Loving 'Hippie Chimps' Face Extinction

'The Bonobo Connection' examines most endangered of African apes

The endangered bonobo is the only primate, other than humans, which engages in sex for reasons other than procreation.(Courtesy "The Bonobo Connection")
The endangered bonobo is the only primate, other than humans, which engages in sex for reasons other than procreation.(Courtesy "The Bonobo Connection")
Deep in the forest of the African Congo lives an animal most people have never heard of.

It looks like a chimpanzee, but is smaller and leaner. And like the chimpanzee, it shares almost 99 percent of our DNA.

But these rare creatures of the rainforest are actually bonobos, a completely different species of primate. And while they are the last ape to have been discovered, bonobos may be the first to become extinct.

'Hippie chimps'

While bonobos and chimps are our closest relatives, they are actually very different from each other, especially when it comes to their behavior.

Unlike chimpanzees, which can be aggressive and efficient predators - killing monkeys, and sometimes each other - bonobos are peaceful.  

“Whereas chimpanzees have a male-dominated society," says Sally Coxe, president of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative in Washington, "bonobos are matriarchal. The females are in charge.”
'Hippie Chimps' Face Extinctioni
X
June 11, 2012 1:35 PM
Deep in the forest of the African Congo lives an animal most people have never heard of. They look like chimpanzees, but are smaller and leaner. And like the chimpanzee, share almost 99 percent of our DNA. But these rare creatures of the rainforest are actually bonobos, a completely different species of primates. And while they are the last ape to have been discovered, bonobos may be the first to become extinct. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.

Bonobos are also different in that they have a more egalitarian and cooperative society than chimpanzees, she says.

Bonobos are also highly sexual. According to Coxe, “they are the only primate other than humans that has sex not just for procreation. They have sex a lot and they do it in every way, shape or form. They’re actually bi-sexual.”

In fact, bonobos use sex as a way of resolving conflict.

This has given them the label, the ‘make love, not war’ apes or the ‘hippie chimps.’

'The Bonobo Connection'

Award-winning filmmaker Irene Magafan recently completed a documentary called “The Bonobo Connection,” which follows a family of bonobos at the Columbus Zoo in the U.S. state of Ohio.

She says bonobos have gone unnoticed for so long and are extremely underrepresented “because most people just know of chimpanzees. You don’t learn about bonobos in schools or in books. It’s just not there.”
 
Filmmaker Irene Magafan with baby Teco, the newest addition to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, in November 2011.(Courtesy Irene Magafan)Filmmaker Irene Magafan with baby Teco, the newest addition to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, in November 2011.(Courtesy Irene Magafan)
x
Filmmaker Irene Magafan with baby Teco, the newest addition to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, in November 2011.(Courtesy Irene Magafan)
Filmmaker Irene Magafan with baby Teco, the newest addition to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, in November 2011.(Courtesy Irene Magafan)
And yet bonobos are the most endangered African ape.

Magafan says the biggest threat to bonobos is by far the bush meat trade.

“People are hunting bonobos…they're killing these animals, and they're taking them back to market to sell them.”

Leading scientists estimate there may be as few as 7,000 bonobos left in the wild, all in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And there are less than 200 bonobos in captivity, in the United States and Europe, which may be one of the reasons they have gone ‘unnoticed’ for so long.

But, working with the government and local community, The Bonobo Conservation Initiative has set up two protected nature reserves, including one larger than Belgium.  

And then there is Lola Ya Bonobo - the only bonobo sanctuary in the world - located just outside of Kinshasa. Orphaned bonobos are nursed back to health there and if possible, released back into the wild.   

Importance of habitat

In making sure there is a protected habitat to return them to, Magafan says, we benefit as well.

“Bonobos inhabit the second largest rainforest in the world," she says. "We have the Amazon rainforest and we then have the Congo forest.These are our lungs of the earth and this is how our earth breathes. The Congo rainforest is where we get a lot of our medicines, and it’s where the earth gets a lot of its oxygen, so imagine us losing that.”

Sally Coxe can’t imagine it either, and says meeting a bonobo is not like anything else on this earth.  

“Bonobos are so highly intelligent; they are so naturally compassionate, naturally peaceful, insightful beings that getting to know them personally as I have, they’re like people and in some ways better than people," she says. "We really have so much more to learn about bonobos that we have barely scratched the surface.”

Coxe and Magafan say that by understanding bonobos and how they live, both in the wild and in captivity, we can learn how to live more peaceful lives ourselves.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid