Bonobo Chimpanzees : The bonobo, also called pygmy chimpanzee is a rare primate species listed as endangered on the IUCN red list. This type of species belongs to the genus Pan making it a close relative to the common chimpanzee. These two primate species are the only in this genus, but bonobo was formerly mistaken as a subspecies of the common chimpanzee until it was distinguished as a species of its own recently. This was because of the identical physical similarities between these two apes.

Sharing the same genus with common chimpanzees makes a bonobo one of the great apes roaming the earth. These two species, apart from being identical also share 98.7% of their DNA with humans. This automatically makes them man’s closest living relatives. The bonobos reside in a 500,000-kilometer square area in the heart of Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonobos are frugivorous mainly dwell in primary and secondary forests of the Congo Basin and within seasonally flooded swamp forests.

Differences between Bonobos and common chimpanzees.

Bonobos are ordinarily a bit leaner / smaller and darker than the common chimpanzees.  They are characterized by fairly long legs, darker faces, pink lips, and tufted tails as they mature. The bonobo society is also structured differently from common chimpanzees. Bonobo groups are sometimes headed by females. This is unlike the other apes who don’t allow matriarchal-led societies causing a few scholars to suggest them as gender-balanced in their command structure.

congo bonobo chimpanzees
Portrait of a young Bonobo from the Nkala group in the forest canopy. Nkala village, Malebo, DRC

When considering size male chimpanzees are heavier than bonobos in bulk and weight. Adult female bonobos are smaller than their male counterparts. Body mass in males ranges from 32 to 60 kg with an average of 45 kilograms as compared to 33 kg the average in females. Bonobos have smaller heads than the common chimpanzee and less noticeable brow ridges on the face. They also possess a blacker face with small ears, wider nostrils, and pink lips with a darker hue in their fur than common chimpanzees.

Female Bonobos also have more noticeable breasts as compared to the flatter breasts of other great apes. These however are not so pronounced as those of human beings. Bonobos possess also a slimmer upper body, thin neck, narrow shoulders, and long legs when equated to the common chimpanzee. Bonobos typically live for over 40 years in captivity. Their life expectancy in the wild is indefinite, but it can be ascertained that it’s much shorter than 40 years.

There is no solid data on population figures but it’s estimated that between 20,000 to 50,000 bonobos reside in the Congo forests. As mentioned earlier, the bonobo is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and its natural habitat is threatened chiefly by human population growth and encroachment for different economic reasons and living. However, the biggest threat is commercial poaching which has seen the number of bonobos dwindling each passing year.

Bonobos are known to be terrestrial and arboreal creatures and usually avoid water. Their movement on the ground is mainly knuckle-walking like the other great apes. Bipedal walking is also recorded though it has low percentages especially when in the wild but more than that of the chimpanzee. The bonobos are also gifted with more individual facial features just like humans do. This aids in differentiating one individual from another a feature that has been improved for visual facial recognition in their social groups. These physical traits and pose give bonobos a likeness closer to that of humans than the common chimpanzee possesses.

Due to persistent political instabilities in Democratic Republic of Congo and shyness of bonobos, there has been pretty little research done on its natural habitation. However, the efforts invested in hopes of restoring peace in the area are paying off gradually and one day more information will be known about these interesting great apes in the heart of Africa.

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