This blog has moved!

Please go to my new Psychology Today blog to see what I'm up to. To buy the book, Bonobo Handshake, please visit my website. To follow the adventures of the Lola ya Bonobo orphans, please visit Friends of Bonobos

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My blog has lost its balls

The following post is from Anon...

Vanessa I was wondering why the blog is so sparse of entries and info this year compared to last years.There just isn't any (for lack of a better word)balls to your blog this year.---What gives?
Could you maybe get some of the students to submit some entries about the daily goings-on?
It is a shame to think that this once fantastic blog may have "jumped the tank"
Before any of my fellow faithful readers jump down my throat--re-read the old post and THAN make a judgement.There is no comparison.
I love this blog Vanessa and don't want to see it die a lingering death.--What is going on?

It's true Anon, my blog has lost its balls. I had so much fun last year writing about Mwanda's clitorus in my face, Tembo's ball biting antics, but the blog had to change for one reason - I couldn't just be a bystander any more. I had to do something.

I'm currently running 3 blogs, this one and 2 others:

The other 2 directly raise money for the bonobos. I can't write 3 different blogs so the content is the same across all 3, and I write about what I think will raise money for the bonobos and represent the organisation. Much more boring, but our donors would much rather hear about the cute antics of their adopted bonobos, than how much drool Tory has collected for her testosterone samples.

I'm on the board of Friends of Bonobos, and I spend about 20 hours a week writing grants, updating the website, and doing other Board membery stuff. I'm also writing a book that just got bought by Penguin about all the quirky bonobo stuff you love, and 10% of the profits will go to the bonobo sanctuary.

Between that, my other book that's due in a week, my actual job at Duke, and trying to find a couch to match my walls, I don't have the 2 hours a day it took to write Bonobo Handshake last year.

Why keep it going? I thought about killing it all together, but it gets such damn good traffic. I have no idea why but it ranks high on the searches and I get thousands of people through without even trying. I know you're disappointed, Anon, and I'm sorry to let you down. But I'd rather some die hard fans of last year's irreverant fun were pissed off at the change, because several thousand people a week still stumble on this blog somehow and find out about bonobos. That's why I kept the name but changed the heading.

I wish I could have kept it going, but I gotta make those baby bonobos some money. Keep them in milk and bananas for another year.

So Anon, read all last years posts for sure but adopt a bonobo!

look at this little face

Don't you want to help? Don't you?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pool party!

I had a chat to someone from Tigress productions who is making a docco called Ape School, about orphaned apes and how they learn to be themselves when they graduate to an adult social group.

What came to mind about the bonobos is the paddling pool! There are two big lakes in the sanctuary and the bonobos are constantly splashing in them when it's hot. Most apes are afraid of water because the weight of their hair would sink them if they actually tried to swim, but not bonobos. I've seen bonobos go in up to their necks - as long as they can still stand. I wonder if they are born with this love of splashing around or whether they learn it in the nursery.

Anyway, here are a few snaps from the last pool party I attended. It was really hot. First Kataco was drinking out of the pool, then everyone came over and started splashing each other. they were like a bunch of kids in a sprinkler.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A post from Claudine...

I accepted an invitation from WWF-France who were organising a conference at the Senate in Paris. The symposium was intended as an opportunity to come together and review judicial protection and international agreements which guarantee justice, damage compensation and the restoration of habitats in times of conflict. Indeed, war has serious consequences on wildlife and the environment. Both have too often been the forgotten victims of 20th century conflicts. International conventions do attempt to limit the environmental impact of wars, but they seem so insufficient and so difficult to apply! We are at the dawn of a new era, one in which the link between armed conflict and the environment is affected by the increasing rarity of natural resources. The deterioration of natural habitats and the decreased access to natural resources, potential agricultural land and, more importantly, to water are environmental causes of armed conflicts in the world today, which can only worsen with climate change. (For example, the present-day situation in Darfur is considered the first conflict due to climate change). We must find solutions in terms of international rights. What is at stake is not “saving” the planet, but conserving acceptable living conditions for humans.

I had been chosen for my efforts in collaborating with the Congolese Armed Forces - I am an honorary member of their « Environmental Unit » - during the 15 years of war in the DRC. But also for our collaboration last year in response to a sad situation in the east of the country, in North Kivu (Virunga National Park) and in South Kivu (Kahuzi Biega National Park), with the fast disappearance of the Mountain Gorillas and the last remaining from our precious and endemic Eastern Lowland Gorillas. Thanks to a long standing friendship with Mr. Swing , whom I knew to be committed to nature and conservation, I was hoping that he might send a patrol into the area. However, as I also very well knew, this was not the responsibility of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

My experience therefore confirmed the topic raised at the conference: tentative solutions are possible in situations of conflict BUT they rely on the initiative of individuals. International agreements have been in existence for over 50 years but rare are those who comply. The Environmental Unit of the Congolese Armed Forces is not taken seriously, neither internally within the Army nor by the conservation NGOs. Without Mr Swing’s personal involvement it is unlikely that the patrols would have been organised as quickly as they were…

Bearing in mind that many conflicts of the 21st century might be linked to the environment, it is my hope that the ideas of those who organised this conference, such as French Senator Marie-Christine Blandin and WWF-France, will disseminate and eventually challenge world leaders to take them seriously and perhaps set up, one day, a UN for the Environment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kikwit's reflection

The other day I saw the most interesting thing. Manono, the second dominant male, and Kikwit, a subordinate, have never been friends. While they were sitting near each other, Manono chased Kikwit and bit him.

Kikwit screamed, but didn't defend himself. Then he ran down to the water, still screaming, and when he saw his own reflection, he got really upset and splashed the water. It was just the most fascinating behaviour ever. He knew it wasn't another bonobo in the water, because we know chimps and bonobos recognise themselves in mirrors (and reflections) so it was the sight of himself that upset him. What did it mean? I would love to talk bonobo, just for one day....

Sponsor a bonobo!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sake charms Air France

Just got sent this message and pics from Olivier Fages, the Commandant of Air France to Claudine:

' We had such a wonderful time at Lola that with stars in my eyes, I announced what a wonderful time we had to the passangers on our flight! We had such a wonderful time with you, your knowledge and passion you shared with us in those marvellous hours were unforgettable.'

Thanks Oliver! Claudine is a charming and wonderful hostess! But I wonder if little Sake wasn't the real star of your visit?

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Earlier this year I had to write an article on Bigfoot. I started out not believing in Bigfoot but then I had a long talk with Dan Schmidt in our department at Duke University and he is not entirely convinced by the evidence – and there is a lot of evidence by the way, hundreds of footprints, pieces or hair that don’t belong to any known animal. But Dan’s point is that we can’t say for certainty that Bigfoot does not exist, any more than we can say that there is no life on other planets.

I spoke to some Bigfoot fanatics for that article and they are serious believers. If I had to guess what Bigfoot looked like, I would guess he looked like this.