Mommy & me
Mother and child Bonobo, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida. Bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans collectively make up the group of primates known as great apes. Bonobos were the last of the great ape species to be discovered, which occurred around 1929. Although they are frequently called “pygmy chimpanzees,” this name is not appropriate as they average 80% of the weight of chimpanzees with a more slender body and longer limbs. Their hairdo parts down the center of the head and they have reddish lips in a dark face. Behaviorally, bonobos differ greatly from chimpanzees. Although they will kill and eat small animals, they do not wage war on neighboring groups or engage in infanticide like chimpanzees. Sexual behavior serves a much more significant role in social relations among bonobos than in any of the other great ape species. They solve conflict, ease social tension, and maintain social bonds through sexual behavior. Also different, adolescent females (around the age of ten years) leave their maternal group to find a new group, while males stay with their mothers. Male social status is tied to their mother’s rank in this female dominated society. Bonobos are among the rarest and most critically endangered species housed at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. As of January 2007, there were 220 bonobos living in captivity, including 83 managed by the Bonobo Species Survival Plan (SSP) in North American zoos, 84 managed by the European Breeding Programme (EEP), and over 50 in “Lola ya Bonobo”, a bonobo sanctuary in the DRC. The captive bonobo population is managed internationally and every few years bonobo experts from around the world meet to discuss bonobo transfers, breeding, husbandry, and conservation. International cooperation on the captive management of bonobos is important for maintaining genetic diversity, particularly due to the relatively small captive population. Due to the lack of information available on bonobos compared to other great ape species, bonobo facilities share their experiences with one another in order to continue to fine-tune captive husbandry practices.