Where do bonobos live?
They are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their discontinuous range extends from the Lualaba River in the east to the Kasai/Sankuru rivers in the south and as far as the Congo River in the west and around Lake Tumba/Lake Mai-Ndombe. Only 28 percent of their geographic range is suitable and only four distinct bonobo strongholds have been identified — Maringa-Lopori-Wamba, Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba, Solong, and Lac Tumba-Lac Mai Ndombe. Total bonobo population numbers are unknown because only 30 percent of its historic range has been surveyed. Estimates from the four strongholds, suggest a minimum of 15,000 to 20,000 individuals remain. Only a small portion of their habitat is protected and deforestation is rapidly destroying the rest.
They can survive in close proximity to human communities that are willing to cohabitate with these peaceful apes. Recent surveys show that many areas had bonobos 20 years ago but now they have none. The political instability in the DRC has had a major impact on the species decline.
Tags: Bonobo, DRC, Congo
View Africa | Habitat
What are bonobos?
Our closest cousins, bonobos share 98.7 percent of our genetic makeup. They are about two-thirds the size of humans and are covered with dark hair. They’re distinguished by their black faces, red lips, two or three webbed toes, a tail tuft, and parted long hair. Unlike their closest cousins, the common chimpanzees, they are not divided into subspecies.
Bonobos whimper when they fail, just like humans.
They control their emotions during times of happiness, sorrow, excitement, or anger. They also have human-like gestures when communicating without sound — they beg by stretching out an open hand and they whimper if they fail at something.
They walk on their feet and their knuckles.
Bonobos move quadrupedally in a special position called knuckle-walking. In trees, they also tend to suspend themselves from their arms to move around easier. And on the ground, they can walk bipedally (upright on its two feet) as well, making it the most human-like of all apes.
Even the bonobos need their own space.
They live in a fission-fusion society. Their communities range from 30 to 80 individuals but they separate and reunite on a regular basis. During the day, they break off into small groups to gather food. At night, they rejoin their group to make sleeping nests from branches and leaves.
Bonobos love to feast in fruit.
While fruit is their favorite food, they also eat leaves, flowers, seeds, bark, fungus, and honey. More than 113 types of plants make up their diet. They play an important role as seed dispersers, which is critical for forest regeneration. They have been documented eating invertebrates and small vertebrates. If they eat meat, then it’s usually opportunistic versus the result of an organized hunt.