Can You Feel the Bonobo Love? Can You Pass it On?by Kool Cat KC on 03/18/13
On our last post, we wrote about how scientists studying western lowland gorillas found the gorillas seem to express emotions like sadness and happiness. They even seem to have fun.
Now my human, Terry, wants to let you know about bonobos, another species of great ape. Bonobos look like chimpanzees. Up to about 70 years ago, scientists thought that bonobos were just small chimpanzees; but now scientists know that bonobos are a totally different species. They are smaller and thinner. Their heads and ears are smaller, and the hair on their head is longer and parts in the middle. Bonobos behave differently from other great apes. In bonobo societies, it’s the females that are in charge, not the males. They’re more peaceful than other great apes and they live only in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Can you find that country on a map? Before it was the Democratic Republic of Congo, this country was known as Zaire.
Dr. Zanna Clay and Dr. Frans de Waal are scientists who study bonobos near the country’s capital, Kinshasa. What they have seen is that when bonobos fight or when one bonobo bullies another, a friend often reaches out to comfort the victim. The friend tries to make the victim feel better by hugging, or grooming. Have you ever had a friend or your parents hug you or talk to you after someone has hurt your feelings or pushed you around? Did it make you feel better when they did? That’s exactly what happens to bonobos. When bonobos are excited, or under stress, they scratch themselves, and groom themselves more than they normally would. Dr. Clay and Dr. de Waal found that when another bonobo comforts or consoles a hurt or bullied friend, that friend shows less signs of stress—less scratching, less grooming.
Look at the pictures. Do they remind you of you and your friends? Do you think it’s a good idea to comfort or console a friend? Maybe that’s something you might want to do next time you see that a friend needs a hug or a kind word. Or maybe someday you’ll want to be a scientist and study animals and how they behave.
Terry found out about Dr. Clay’s and Dr. De Waal’s research on this blog: http://news.emory.edu/stories/2013/01/yerkes_bonobos_consolation/campus.html. She found out more about bonobos from the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.