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Name: Bonobos
Scientific name: Pan paniscus
Range: Africa, South of the Zaire River
Habitat: Humid Rain forests
Status: Threatened 
Diet in the wild: Mainly fruit, but they will also eat insects, small mammals and fish.
Diet in the zoo: Vegetables and Fruit
Location in the zoo:  World of Primates

Physical description:

Average weight of the male is around 95 pounds and average weight of the female is around 82 pounds. Their body is slim and slender and they have lips that are reddish on a black face. They have flatter more open faces with higher foreheads than chimpanzee's. The Bonobos hair has a natural part down the middle. Bonobos are not really a chimpanzee, nor is it a gorilla or an orangutan, it is a very unique creature.  They have very elegant legs that are remarkably long when compared with other ape species. Bonobo infants are born small and develop slower than other ape infants.

General information

Bonobos come from a small area of Zaire that is also the home of the Pygmy tribes, hence their name "Pygmy Chimpanzees." Nearly 80% of Zaire is covered by forest, and this forest that the bonobos call home is surpassed in surface area only by the jungles of the Amazon. In the wild it is hard to find bonobos because they are afraid of people. Bonobos live in a female dominated society and because of this the females can be more relaxed. 

Previously Bonobos were not hunted because it was taboo to hunt or eat them. It is no longer taboo to hunt or eat them because the pgymies are also suffering  from a lack of food and if they can be found they provide a good source of protien to a starving family. It is hard to get people to undert\stand that an animal is endangered when they are starving. One thing in the Bonobos favor is they live in such remote areas that traking them is hard, if not impossible. 

The population in capitivity is so small that there isn't a large enough gene pool for much genetic diversity. There are two programs that coordinate breeding efforts: the Species Survival Plan in North America and the European Endangered Species Programme. The largest groups of Bonobos are found at the Dierenperk Planckendail, in Mechelen, Belguim and in the Milwaukee County Zoo. 


Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations

They like to live and travel in large groups, sometimes up to 100 individuals. They seem to have developed rules for how to deal the any problems that may come up and seem to have a very complex communication system. Many scientists suspect it may be a language rather than only emotional expressions. 

Bonobos show considerable tool-using skill in captivity, including the extraction of honey with sticks from artificial termite mounds, but in their natural habitat they have thus far never been seen to probe for insects, sponge water, or crack nuts with stones. 

They have strong social ties to each other through sexual interactions. Bonobos make love not war to settle internal disputes. The chimpanzee's sex life is rather plain and boring; Bonobos act as if they have read the Kama Sutra. Continued research has made it clear that overt sexuality is an integral part of Bonobo society.
Some distinctions between Bonobos and Chimpanzee's are as follows: 
1. Bonobos are sensitive, lively and nervous, whereas chimpanzees are course and hot tempered
2. Bonobos rarely raise their hair; chimpanzees often do so. 
3. Physical violence almost never occurs in Bonobos yet it is common in Chimpanzees. 
4. Bonobos are more vocal than chimpanzees. 
5. While wild chimps generally knucklewalk around on all fours, bonobos walk upright for short distances. All Bonobos are excellent bipeds and often walk on two legs when caring food.

{short description of image}Comments about the Bonobos at the Fort Worth Zoo

The 3 Bonobos at the Fort Worth Zoo came from the San Diego Zoo, they are all male. There are no plans at present to introduce any female bonobos into this group. The Bonobos are put into separate cages at night to cut down on the fighting.They interact with the Chimps at night because their cages are across the hall. 

Their diet at the zoo consists of all kinds of green, Roman lettuce and Kale daily. Fruit and Vegetables - consisting of apples, oranges and bananas. Turnips, turnip greens, celery, and potatoes. Everyday they get something special like tomatoes or cantaloupes. They also eat a concoction of vitamins and minerals in the form of a monkey biscuit. 

I stood and observed all three for about 4 hours and during that time I noticed that all three Bonobos were very interested in the babies that were at the window. They have the most expressive eyes and seemed generally interested in the people looking through the glass at them. 

Personal Observations

The 3 bonobos are very easy to tell apart. They have very distinct personalities. The Leader of the group is named Kevin. He is the baldest and the smartest. He tends to sit with his arms up around himself a lot and he is the most dominant. He was raised by people. 

The second in charge, most of the time is Victor. He has the most hair, and it sticks out on the sides of his face. The keepers have labeled him as the cutest of the three males. He has problems with his throat sac and when it is not bothering him, he is the most playful. When his throat sac is infected he tends to sit alone and get pick on more, this usually occurs during the winter months. Kevin was also raised by people. 

The third in this trio is Mabruki, he is kind of in the middle when it comes to hair growth. He tends to stay separate from the other two. The only time he is second line is when Victor is sick. He was raised by his mother and has had less human contact. When Victor is feeling good, then Mabruki is usually the one that gets picked on. He is very interested in a female chimps baby. He can see them through the window, and they will both sit by the window for long period of time. 


Related Links:

Bonobo the forgotten Ape:
Can Chimps Talk?
Bonobos Protection Fund:

Page author: Joy Roe 
my e-mail address is


Source list:

Fort Worth Zoo Keepers 
Waal, Frans de. Bonobos The Forgotten Ape. Berkley: University        of California Press, London, England. 1997. 
Waal, Frans de. Peace Making Among Primates. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. London England 1996 
Savage-Rumbaugh, Sue., and Roger Lewin. Kanzi, The ape at the brink of the human mind. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York. 1994