Tagged with frans de waal

Dewey Decimal Project: 599.884 WAA Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape

I first learned Bonobo book cover f bonobos about the time that this book was originally published. I remember reading an article about these not-chimpanzees in the Chicago Tribune. I found it fascinating that the two ape species closest in relation to humans have bifurcated into “R-rated” species with one specializing in violence (chimpanzees) and the other sex (bonobos). I remembered reading something about dolphin or porpoise species indicating that a similar bifurcation between sex and violence had occurred with those animals. It raises the question about whether a focus on sex and violence is inherent in intelligence (and on a theological-anthropological note sex and violence come upon the stage in close succession in the book of Genesis).

The book goes into a good deal of detail about what’s known about bonobos, much of which comes from observations of the animals in captivity since their native range and behaviors are such that observations in the wild are difficult and often involve activities such as leaving out food for them to forage which arguably shape their behavior in unnatural ways. Alongside the text are spectacular photos of bonobos, again mostly of the apes in captivity but including some in the wild, which add to the book’s appeal.

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