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

Friday, January 29, 2010

release fruit from the zannah

The bonobos are becoming quite the foragers in the forest!

Here's some of the fruit bonobos eat there. They love these red fruits, Tondolo! They find them in the forest too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

lomela - From Zannah

All those anxious Lomela mothers - here is some news from Zannah:

'Here's just a few more pics- one of your favourite little forest lady Lomela. Lomela is on great form up there. When she arrived she was pretty nervous, it was a big change! But now she's grown much more confident. But she understands about not approaching people anymore, she respects distance. But its a bit of a different story when she's up in the trees, there she really gets picks up her cheekiness, selecting appropriate branches and leaves to shake, there is always a shower of debris when Lomela is above you in the trees!'

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Second baby bonobo born at the release site

It's a girl!

this is from Gladez, our UK volunteer:

Lukaya gave birth to a healthy little female on the 9th of January 2010! Second baby for Ekolo ya Bonobo, and first baby of this new year! "Motema ya Ekolo" (the heart of Ekolo)

Of course within days her head had already been plucked of all its beautiful little hairs and now it has spread to full body!!! But Lukaya is a great mum, letting her daughter suckle as much as she wants and in fact the first few times I saw her that was all she was doing!

The other bonobos are doing well, Etumbe and Lukaya stay close to one another. For walks in the forest the group had slowed down to Lukaya's new rhythm as she had to hold the baby with one hand when she walked, this led the trackers on very slow walks which basically where a large arch around the enclosure from morning to evening, but now the baby is nice and strong and holding on tight so the pace has picked up again! Little Nsomi (Etumbe's baby) is growing day by day, curious as to this new little friend. She is starting to eat the beya shoots, and particularly enjoys taking them from her mothers mouth.

Here are photos of Lukaya and Motema, as well as one of Nsomi, who is just too cute even though she has no hair!!!!



Monday, January 25, 2010

Mama Claudine

Claudine, for those of you who don't know, is the heart and soul of Lola. Born in Belgium, she has lived in Congo since she was 3, and she is known throughout Kinshasa for her fiery red hair.

I have never in my life met a more selfless, kind, dedicated person. She is an inspiration. That's all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

new baby...

ok, i'm a bit out of the loop - Lola has a new orphan and I don't know their name! Or their story! Have written to ask, even thought I know her story will be the same as everyone else's story - her mother was shot by poachers, and she was taken from her mother's body to be sold, either in Congo or int eh black market to US, Europe, or the Middle East.

The ministry confiscated the orphan and sent her to Lola, where she now has a new chance.

Isn't she adorable! i just want to hug her!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

kinshasa the bush baby grows up

Does anyone remember Kinshasa? You can read the posts about her arrival and various antics here: (scroll down past chuppa chups)

well Rob Leyland from the British Embassy has sent photos!! and she looks so beautiful and big!! I just love seeing the bonobos grow up year after year.

Kinshasa just had an unbreakable spirit. who knows what she went through after she lost her mother and was kidnapped from the forest - but from the minute she arrived at Lola, she was just so full of life and joy - so different to some of the orphans that arrive that take months of rehabilitation!

she is soooooo beautiful!!! even if she did make me chase her round the sanctuary for hours!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Gosh, I don't know if i've had time to announce our new vet - Fanny! It's really hard to find a great vet who wants to live in one of the most dangerous countries in the world and take care of a bunch of 60 hairy orphans, so Fanny is just a gift.

It is a little known fact that bonobos prefer human women to men. God knows why - maybe because it was almost certainly a man who shot their mothers, but even the new born babies who were not orphaned seem to prefer women to men.

The difference in their attitudes is just extraordinary. A male vet just has such a time sneaking up to the bonobos with needles and creams and medicines - the bonobos always seem a little suspicious - but with a woman - they are completely different. As you can see, the bonobos just seem to melt when Fanny is around. Doesn't hurt that apparently she is georgeous!

yay for Fanny! thanks for helping the bonobos!

Friday, January 15, 2010

are chimps so bad?

Blackbird wrote:

'I like bonobos as much as the next thing, but, why demonising chimps at the minimum opportunity? True, chimps occasionally kill other chimps, but this is not an everyday behaviour. Male chimps hunt, but then there is sharing between the hunters, and also meat is given to females. Chimps have also been observed to share tools for nut cracking. I find that the constant demonising of chimps does no good to this blog. It is like humans where referred as murderers constantly.'

It's true Blackbird - I am guilty of playing this up, and maybe I go overboard. I love chimpanzees. I worked with them before I even knew what a bonobo was, and just like us, they are capable of love, kindness, grief - and all the other 'higher' human emotions.

But what I get sick of, is people just knowing about bonobos for their sexual behavior. The point I'm trying to make (perhaps unsuccessfully) is that bonobos are so much more than a horny version of a chimpanzees. Because chimps, for all their good points, still share the darker side of ourselves. Bonobos, despite being as closely related to us, as chimps, have managed to find a way to live without war, murder, and infantacide. And that is what makes them so special, not penis fencing or g-g rubbing.

The other reason I keep harping on the potential of murderous violence in chimps is that PEOPLE IN THE USA STILL WANT TO BUY ONE AS A PET. Chimps, to most Americans, are the cute little 3 year olds dressed up in clothes on television, not the 200 pound adolescents who will happily tear your face off. I have worked with chimps for almost 10 years now, and I can tell you that there is a rage in them, especially in adolescent males, that is sometimes impossible for them to control.

This doesn't mean they aren't special, wonderful creatures worth saving - just other animals with predatory streaks, like tigers or lions. But this side of chimpanzees is so often ignored that I wanted to make sure people are aware of it.

But I've probably been leaning too heavily to one side, so I'll try to be more balanced in the future...

And just to prove it - here is Tatango (the bonobo) in a magnificent, angry charge!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

i love the wet season...

these photos were taken by Rob Leyland from the British embassy when it was pouring during the wet season. I love the wet season coz everything looks so lush and green - but i'm amazed rob snapped these pics and still didn't get his camera wet - when it rains, it really really rains. it's like being at the bottom of the waterfall.

here are some randoms, of the bonobos enjoying the lush greenery...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

opala - the alpha of all alphas

i realise i've never said much about opala, because she is so hard to photograph, so i'm very grateful to Rob Leyland from the British embassy for taking these photos!

Opala, is the number one top dog of group 1. She is one tough cookie, and belies the concept that bonobos are supposed to be peaceful! i have seen her chase petit bonobo garcons right up trees, screaming, and occasionally one of the big males.

Look at her face - does it look like a face you want to mess with?

Even though Opala may not be a nice alpha, the important thing is that she IS an alpha. There are so few female-dominated societies. Hyenas are one, but female hyenas are as beefed up as the males, and they also have penises. Female black widow spiders eat their mates, but they are four times bigger.

And even though Opala may be a biatch (i can say that, right? Tyra banks says it on her show) she doesn't kill anyone, like a dominant alpha chimpanzee, and even the not so dominant chimps. So let Opala chase the little boys up trees, as long as instills a healthy respect for girl power and stops them from growing into big bullies.

Monday, January 11, 2010

thanks to the brits for the pencil thief photos (and others)

Lola had a visit from the British Embassy and ROB LEYLAND took most of the beautiful photos that will come up over the next few weeks. Thank you Rob!

And here is Luozi, terror of the nursery, now newly graduated. I know every time I talk about the nursery I mention a new terror, but Luozi is a very special case. It is hard to be mad at him because he has a weak heart - if he gets upset you can see it fluttering inside his chest!

But during my observational studies of the nursery, Luozi would without fail, steal my pencil . every single day, it was unbelievable. He lurks in the bushes, pretending he is playing with his friends and has not the slightest interest in the shiny yellow instrument I move with such concentration over my paper.

Like a curveball, he sneaks around at an angle, knowing I can’t see him as he approaches. He waits until I am distracted by the activity of the other bonobos, then, at the speed of light, he flashes past me, swipes my pencil, and runs off to hide his booty. Mama Yvonne calls his name furiously, and he drops his spoil someplace where it is impossible to retrieve, preferably in a big pile of poop. Then he scoots away, chuckling.

Makes it very hard to do my observations. So I am now happy to announce that Luozi has graduated to group 3 - with the brand new fence that Jim Holtz built!! Ha! research should be so much easier now!

Friday, January 8, 2010


for everyone who's wondering why i don't respond more to comments - it's coz of the spammers!! i get seriously a bout 100 spam comments a day, which i guess is good coz it means the blog is popular? but if i'm not responsive - that's why - coz it takes hours just to take off the spam!

does anyone have a solution? i'll try find your answer among the spamming!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

chimpanzee funeral

I've been meaning to show this to you for a while, it's about a chimpanzee funeral in Sierra Leone:

I think it's funny that some researchers still question an animal's ability to experience true grief. Everyone who has a dog knows that animals are capable of great emotion, so for apes, who are so closely related to us, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

I remember seeing a bonobo die at Lola, it was Lipopo, and several of the other bonobos, inlcuding Mimi, clung to his dead body and refused to let go. Even when the vet turned up with a dart gun, which looks like a gun, right? Which was the last thing these orphans saw before their mothers were killed, they still wouldn't let the body go. I still cry every time I see the video.

And some people say that because humans are the only ones who cry tears, only we can feel true sorrow, true grief. If that's true, then it's us and crocodiles, because their eyes leak salt water too.

I truly believe that bonobos understand death, and they mourn it, like we do.

Watch y'all think?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

thank you to everyone

Hi everyone, and hope your first 5 days of the new year have been wonderful!

I just wanted to say a special thank you to all our donors last year.

We raised over $30,000 through the Friends of Bonobos website, and over $6,400 from our Wildlife Direct Donors. As some of you know, we had a serious flu last year, where we lost quite a few bonobos, and at the same time, a donor pulled out, leaving us short for bonobo food - and it would have been so hard to make it, if it hadn't been for all of you.

So thank you all so much, for helping the bonobos! Bonobos don't have that many friends in the world, so we're just so grateful that you're all friends of bonobos.

Here's to a great 2010!