(this is a photograph that was published in Psychology Today in a story by Vanessa Woods, who clearly studied our closest cousins, the Bonobos– only found in the DR Congo)
These two are at the only Bonobo sanctuary in the world, which is near Kinshasa.
Where Bonobos live in the wild is in the neighborhood I will be going to soon:
One kinda cute thing I learned today is that Bonobos and Chimpanzees either do not, or cannot swim. Thus, Bonobos hang out on the south side of the Congo River, but their very close cousins are on the other side of the river, to the west, north and east. But neither Bonobos, nor Chimpanzees are on the other side. Theory is neither species chooses to cross the river. Not sure I will want to either, once I get there. You see, already an affiliation with my neighbors.
Part of it might be (but I am just speculating, because I have not yet been to the Wild East) a common dislike of swimming with crocodiles. I will ask our Bonobo friends and let you know their thoughts.
Meanwhile, I overheard a conversation the other day between two redneck anthropologists talking about this same issue: why don’t those primates cross the river? (I think they were from Alberta, or maybe Tennessee)
Anyway, this is what I overheard about their “thoughts” about why we find Bonobos on one side and Chimpanzees on the other side of the Congo River:
Frank: “I still don’t get it Charlie, ya got one group on one side, and then you got the other group on the other side. Just don’t make no sense to me.”
Charlie: “C’mon Frank, ya mean you don’t know why theys on each side of the river?”
Frank: “Well, I ain’t seen any of em swimmin, maybe that’s a why they ain’t crossin the river.”
Charlie: “A caurse they ain’t a swimmin. Thems crocs in that river, and tis a tad wide.”
Frank: “But they is real smart, and they got hands. They could build boats.”
Charlie: “Jesus Malarky Frank–a caurse they ain’t gonna build boats.”
Frank: “Why ain’t the Bonobos and Chimpanzees gonna build boats?”
Charlie: “they ain’t gonna build boats cause they don’t like fishin.”
Sadly, there is a very dark side to the life of a Bonobo. Like everything alive here, and even dead things such as the minerals, there is a significant illegal trade. Can’t blame the folks in the streets, in the mines, in the forests. They are trying to survive. Sometimes they are forced–really most, or all of the time– to do the dirty work to collect the rare products that get sold in international markets. Thus, the people scratch out mines to pull out gold, or coltan, or any of the other plentiful minerals in this ironically rich land. Rich to those who do business here, but not to those who live here–and that includes the Bonobos.
Thus, while trying to give you points of optimism about this place, it is also my job to explain what I am seeing on the ground. Besides the endless potholes, there is a tough trade in all kinds of products, some alive and others not.
Our primate cousins that cannot make it out of the country to be live pets get sold as “bush meat.”
But some survive, at least for awhile. This photo is of a little orphan for sale in a market in east Congo.
So there we are. Just a few facts from a place that, at least in modern history, has always been exploited.
One last point: if you want to distinguish between a Bonobo and a Chimpanzee, then look to their hair style.
If you look back to the first photo, you will note that Masisi, the orphaned Bonobo has a part in her hair. That is the way Bonobos wear their hair. My research has not gone so far as to determine if they have developed combs, or if that is the way their hair naturally falls. I will phone Frank and Charlie to get right on it.
And the pup in the photo is Mistique–who Masisi latched onto right away as a support person.
Mean time, thanks for caring about all of the people of the Congo: human, animal and mineral.