Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bonobo Handshake

Baby bonobo photograph used with permission from Vanessa Woods
There are thought to be fewer than 15,000 bonobos left in the wild. Vanessa Woods studies them in the Democratic Republic of Congo and writes about her life and research there on her blog, The Bonobo Handshake. You can sign up to be notified by email each time she writes something new on the blog. Just go to Bloglines and subscribe for free and then follow the simple directions to subscribe to Vanessa's blog and any others you might want to read on a regular basis.

Bonobos live only in this one part of the world, a place torn by civil war. Very little is known about them, making current research even more vital. As Vanessa says on her website, she is part of the Hominoid Psychology Research Group which compares the psychology of humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. The aim of the research group is to find the differences between us and our closest living relatives, which will hopefully give us the key to what makes us human.

Chimpanzees live in violent male dominated societies. Sexual coercion and infanticide are common, as is war. Bonobos however, are peaceful and female dominated. There is no infanticide, sex is used to resolve all kinds of conflict, and bonobos do not have war.
The question is, how much of us is chimpanzee, how much is bonobo, and how much belongs just to us, as humans?

You can adopt a bonobo or donate to bonobo research at www.friendsofbonobos.org/support.htm.

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