The rare Bonobo ape - formerly known as the pygmy chimpanzee - faces a serious menace to its continued survival due to the activities of humans, scientists say.
The bonobo is perhaps most widely known for being one of the few species apart from some humans (and as it turns out, fruitbats) to routinely perform fellatio as part of sexual activity. A new scientific study reveals, however, that the fun-loving apes' very survival is seriously threatened by predatory humans.
"Bonobos that live in closer proximity to human activity and to points of human access are more vulnerable,” says Dr Janet Nackoney, a professor at Maryland uni. “Our results point to the need for more places where bonobos can be safe ... which is an enormous challenge in the [war-torn Congo, which is the only place the bonobos are found]."
A press release issued to highlight Nackoney and her colleagues' study says:
The bonobo is smaller in size and more slender in build than the common chimpanzee. The great ape’s social structure is complex and matriarchal. Unlike the common chimpanzee, bonobos establish social bonds and diffuse tension or aggression with sexual behaviors.
It seems that human aggression is a major problem for the bonobo, which perhaps understandably "avoids areas of high human activity ...
"As little as 28 percent of the bonobo’s range remains suitable," the press announcement adds.
“For bonobos to survive over the next 100 years or longer, it is extremely important that we understand the extent of their range, their distribution, and drivers of that distribution,” says Ashley Vosper of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Bonobos are probably the least understood great ape in Africa, so this paper is pivotal in increasing our knowledge and understanding of this beautiful and charismatic animal.”
Despite the bonobos' somewhat louche reputation, it seems that there's nothing salacious about local humans' interest in them: but the people of the area do hunt apes and monkeys for food, and destruction or partial destruction of forest by farmers is also a major turn-off for the cheery apes. Scientists hope that more terrain suitable for bonobos to live in can be classified as national park - or perhaps discovered within existing parks or otherwise-protected areas.
“The future of the bonobo will depend on the close collaboration of many partners working towards the conservation of this iconic ape,” says Dr Liz Williamson of the International Union for Conservation and Nature Primate Specialist Group.
The new study is published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. ®