Researchers head to Congo to study Bonobo psychology
September 5, 2007
Researchers have gone to the Democratic Republic of Congo to study the social behavior of bonobos — a close relative of the chimpanzee — in the Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in Kinshasa.
Vanessa Woods, an author and a participant in the study, will be posting daily updates at her Bonobo Handshake Blog.
“We’re always comparing ourselves to chimpanzees, but they’re only half the picture,” said Woods. “Bonobos and chimpanzees are so opposite in many ways, that we really need to understand bonobos if we’re ever going to understand ourselves.”
Woods and her colleagues from the Max Planck Institute in Germany will look at cooperation, play behavior and altruistic characteristics in the primates.
Woods and a captive bonobo
“A lot of our experiments look silly, like when I throw a bright red soccer ball back and forth, or wave a red porcupine around. But a lot of these games help us understand the way bonobos think. Are they as obsessed with objects as we are? Are they scared of new things?”
Bonobos are smaller than chimps and live in female-dominated societies. They are widely known for the prominent role that sex plays in conflict resolution.
Because the researchers are studying psychology, they can observe bonobos in the unnatural setting of a 35 hectare forest reserve in Kinshasa.