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BONOBO. General Information. Location: Democratic Republic of Congo Between the Walaba and Sankuru Rivers Gestation : 8 months Doesn’t mean that they’re pumpin ’ out babies on the reg Height : Males—2.4-2.7 ft Females—2.3-2.5 ft

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General information
General Information

  • Location: Democratic Republic of Congo

    • Between the Walaba and Sankuru Rivers

  • Gestation: 8 months

    • Doesn’t mean that they’re pumpin’ out babies on the reg

  • Height: Males—2.4-2.7 ft Females—2.3-2.5 ft

    • Males are bigger, that means that they dominate, right?

  • Weight: Males—86 lb Females—68 lb

    *Fun Fact* The word “bonobo” means absolutely nothing. So if you thought it was science mumbo-jumbo like the rest of those animal names, you were dead wrong.

  • Still not as prominent as humans

  • 99.5% of their DNA is identical to humans

  • Particularly the placement of the foreman magnum

  • Bonobo Human

  • Bipedal locomotion has been seen rarely in the wild

  • But not quite so rarely in captivity

Social structure
Social Structure

  • They live in a large community

    that is then divided into smaller groups

  • The group of the Bonobos is very mixed, young will associate with adults of either sex unlike many other ape groups.

  • Relationships between females are one of the most important links within the bonobo society 

  • Females gain more rank as they mature

    • There is a scale for male rank but it is much smaller and bonded in many ways to their mother 

    • For a male to achieve "alpha status" he must become associated with the alpha female 

Social structure1
Social Structure

  • Low levels of aggression 

  • Disputes are most commonly controlled by sexual relations

    • Aggressor very rarely re-attack once they have been together 

  • "The majority of mounts and matings occur in tense situations.” “Conflict resolution is the more fundamental and pervasive function of Bonobo sex." Sex in Bonobo society is definitively a mechanism for keeping the peace.  

Sexual mating habits
Sexual/Mating Habits

  • Sex transcends reproduction, as it does in humans - serves as a way of bonding, exchanging energy, and sharing pleasure

    • seen in all aspects of life of bonobos

    • Function to keep the society together, and maintain peaceful, cooperative relations

    • conflict can be eased by sexual activity

    • also engage in same-sex encounters

  • males tend to be polite and not vehement in their demands - ask the female first - non-aggressive manner - female has option of refusing a male


  • Bonobos are highly intelligent, emotional, and sensitive creatures.

  • Bonobos are also capable of passing the mirror-recognition test for self-awareness. They communicate through vocal means and understand facial expressions, and hand gestures.


Kanzi—a 26 year old male Bonobo that is able to converse with humans.

  • Can use 348 symbols and learned meaning of up to 3000 spoken English words.

  • The symbols refer to familiar objects (yogurt, key, tummy, bowl), favored activities (chase, tickle), and even some concepts considered fairly abstract (now, bad).

  • Learned to combine these symbols in regular ways, or in what linguists call"proto-grammar.”

    • Once, Savage-Rumbaugh says, on an outing in a forest by the Georgia State University laboratory where he was raised, Kanzi touched the symbols for"marshmallow"and"fire."Given matches and marshmallows, Kanzi snapped twigs for a fire, lit them with the matches and toasted the marshmallows on a stick.

      Video of Kanzi conversing with humans -


  • Fruit and terrestrial herbaceous vegetation (THV) and meat

  • THV is considered leaves, shoots, flowers, and pith

  • Also eat invertebrates and small vertebrates

    • Their diet is somewhere between chimps and gorillas based on what is consumed the most (fruits, THV, and meat)

  • Utilize over 110 species of plants as food sources

    • Preference fruit

    • THV eaten for protein content

  • Eat insects, mollusks, squirrels, snakes, fish, shrimp

Social habits behaviors

  • Social habits and behaviors

    • Territories are defended by strongly male-philopatric kin groups

    • Foraging parties are much larger than chimpanzees

    • Females emigrate from their natal communities at sexual maturity and establish themselves in neighboring-community ranges

      • New females form bonds with one female at a time until they are able to be central in their new communities

      • Older females are more high ranking

    • Males are strongly philopatric

      • No territorial aggression like in chimps

      • Communities exist more peacefully than chimps but not completely

      • As bonobo party sizes increase the percentage of the party that is male also increases


Rafert, J. and E.O. Vineberg (1997) Bonobo Nutrition – relation of captive diet to wild diet. In: BonoboHusbandry Manual American Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Stanford, C. B. (1998). The Social Behavior of Chimpanzees and Bonobos, Emperical Evidence and Shifting assumptions. Current Anthropology Vol39.4