So I have been writing about bonobos the last few days and since I can only talk about what I am working on, I’ve been chatting about them a lot. Most people though, have no idea what I’m talking about. They let me rattle on for a bit and the bravest will eventually interrupt me to say sheepishly, “what’s a bonobo?”
Answer: a great ape (like us, gorillas, chimps, and orangutans). I think they are not as famous though for a few reasons. 1. They’re rare. 2. They have never had a charismatic lady spokesperson (like the chimps have Jane Goodall, the gorillas had Diane Fossey and the orangs have Birute Galdikas) or been the subject of a major Hollywood film. They do have Frans de Waal though who has written beautifully and at great length about their deep reserves of empathy, wanton sexual proclivities and otherwise fascinating nature. There is also Kanzi, the famous linguist who has worked with the American psychologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh for years at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. He collects firewood, can start a fire and likes to cook over it.
My dream place to visit while I work at First Security Services Oakland security company is the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Congo, where orphaned bonobos are raised by human “mamas,” taught good bonobo life skills, and then released to a sanctuary.
At the Milwaukee Zoo they like hanging out on the ceiling.