Category Archives: Chimpanzees

Bonobo smiles

After a discussion on the Friends of Bonobos facebook page I wanted to share this with those of you who follow the blog.

I posted this photo of Manono having fun splashing about in the water… he is the biggest water fan at Lola often wading through the lake with water up to his neck… But someone asked me about his smile as we often hear that a smile for a great ape is a sign of fear.

Indeed when Chimpanzees and Bonobos are scared or stressed they “smile” or put on what is more correctly called a “fear grin”. However they can also smile for real… the “real smile” is different in that it illuminates the whole face, just like with humans… the eyes also smile!

Take another look at Manono’s eyes… do you see it?

Here are some more beautiful smiles from the bonobos at Lola!

Claudine and a beaming Semendwa.

Bili smiling during a game of “catch and tickle”

Shibombo smiling during some playtime.

Matadi, pleased to have fished his bananas out of the water.

If you want to compare it with the genuine “fear grin” and have the courage to do so, follow this link (be warned it is not easy to watch):

One-way…no make that a return transfer!

We received an e-mail from Frank at J.A.C.K., the chimpanzee sanctuary in the south-east of the country to let us know that ‘Ekolo’ the baby chimp had safely arrived.

As you, followers of the blog will know J.A.C.K. helped us back in June when they were involved in the confiscation of a young bonobo ‘Shibombo’ who had been bought, ordered and sent from Kinshasa. J.A.C.K took him in for a month before Roxanne bought him back to join the other orphans at Lola. ‘Shibo’ as we call him is doing just great in the nursery as you can see here!

Shibombo at Lola.

And so it was Lola’s turn to take in a little chimp that had made his way down the river all the way to Kinshasa. (see posting from 31st oct)

‘Ekolo’ as he was named at Lola has now safely arrived at J.A.C.K. as we can see from his warm welcome into Frank’s arms.

Ekolo’s arrival at J.A.C.K.

So each of these two little Great apes have now found their way back to be among others of their own species. A great bit of collaboration between the two sanctuaries together in the same battle!

Frank thanked us here at Lola, just as we thank J.A.C.K!

Our other cousins need us too…

In Claudine’s words:

In the early hours of Sunday the 17th of October I was awakened by a phone call from Mr. André Onusumba from ACOPRIC, the Congolese organisation that worked in partnership with BCI and the ICCN (Congolese Institution for the Conservation of Nature) in the creation of the Sankuru Reserve, (created especially for the protection of the Bonobos of the Kasaï Province). He informed me that there was a little bonobo on board his boat “L’Albatros” which had just arrived all the way from Kisangani and having passed through the Province of Equateur.

I immediately thought back to a little bonobo seen for sale 3 weeks before in Mbandaka, (administrative centre of the Province of Equateur, located on the Congo River), brought to our attention by the organisation “AWELY”, one of our partners, who had since lost it’s trail… it had ‘probably’ been bought by a trafficker and sent to Kinshasa by boat.

We dropped everything! The whole Lola team was ready to go! Valéry living closest to the harbour headed off to collect the little orphan. I set off to join her and to take the poor thing up to Lola where Fanny was already preparing it’s welcome.

Then Valéry called me up: “It’s a chimp!!!”

“No worries, we’ll take it anyway!” I told her. For a long time Mr. Onusumba insisted that we find it a better home than the local zoos! I promised to do so, all the while explaining to Mr. Onusumba that he had to penalise his captain for having allowed this protected species, to embark on his boat!!!

That’s when I thought back to 15 years ago when along with the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) we organised a campaign to raise awareness by sticking hundreds of stickers on the boats that travel up and down the Congo River into the farthest reaches of the vast DRC… We should try to find the money needed to undertake the action again! … Dominique???

And so we will return the favour to J.A.C.K (Jeunes Animaux Confisqués au Katanga) who, only a few months ago helped in the confiscating of a little bonobo (Shibombo) in Lubumbashi from a person of authority in the Congolese Armed Forces and even brought him all the way to Kinshasa with the help and generousity  of the “Hewa Bora” flight company, always prepared to help us with bonobo transfers so long as they have all the necessary documents from the Ministry for the Environment & Agriculture.

And so here he is, little “Ekolo” during his rehabilitation phase in Fanny’s arms. Petra, a visitor staying at Lola became his substitution mother during his quarantine period. It was all a bit unexpected for her, having come all the way from Germany to spend 10 days with the bonobos!…

And so now we have to organise the documents needed for him so that he can go and join close to 40 little chimps that have been taken in by Franck and Roxanne over the past few years! And yes times are hard for our cousins the chimps too!!!!

Some males share like bonobos, others like chimpanzees

Check out this new study done at Lola!!

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Human men may look similar to male bonobos before competition, but status striving males probably look more like chimpanzees.

A new study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals differing hormone levels in our two closest relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees, in anticipation of competition.

Chimpanzees live in male dominated societies where status is paramount and aggression can be severe. In bonobos, a female is always the most dominant and tolerance can allow for more flexible cooperation and food sharing.  Scientists have frequently questioned whether differences in behavior could in part be explained by differing physiological responses to competition.

Researchers from Harvard and Duke University collected saliva from the apes using cotton wads dipped in Sweet Tart candy, then measured hormone levels before and after pairs from each species were presented with a pile of food. Males of both species who were intolerant and could not share with their partners had the strongest hormonal reaction in anticipation of competition – but bonobos and chimpanzees were completely different in the type of hormonal response.

Male chimpanzees showed an increase in testosterone, which is thought to prime animals before competition or aggressive interactions.  Male bonobos showed an increase in cortisol, which is associated with stress and more passive coping strategies in other animals.

“Chimpanzee males reacted to the competition as if it was a threat to their status” says Victoria Wobber, Harvard graduate student. “While bonobos reacted as if a potential competition is stressful showing changes in their cortisol levels.”

Human males usually experience an increase in cortisol before many types of competition in a similar way as seen in the bonobos. However, if men have what is called a “high power motive”, or a strong desire to achieve high status, they experience an increase in testosterone before a competition.

“These results suggest that the steroid hormone shifts that are correlated with the competitive drive of men are shared through descent with other apes,” says Wobber.

While some men may seem more bonobo-like before competition and others more chimpanzee-like, something unique about human males is that after competition they experience an increase in testosterone if they win or a decrease in testosterone if they lose (which accounts for all the giddy or depressed sports fans following a win or a loss). This variation in hormones post-competition was not observed in either chimpanzees or bonobos.

‘It’s exciting because we can see that in some ways we’re similar to bonobos, in others we’re similar to chimpanzees,” says Brian Hare of Duke University. “But then there’s also a part of our biology that seems to be entirely unique.”

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Are you a gambling chimp or a sure-thing bonobo?

Ok, here’s your choice. I have $20 in my left hand. If you choose my left hand, you always get $20. My right hand varies. You could get $5, you could get $60.

You have to do this 6 times. Which hand do you pick?

Right hand, and you’re a chimp, left hand, and you’re a bonobo.

Alex Rosati did this study with grapes for chimps and bonobos, and she found chimps, and most people, are gamblers. We like the rush of occasionally hitting the big time, even if it also means occasionally losing out. Bonobos, on the other hand, like the safe option.

This is a great example of how sometimes either chimps or bonobos look more similar to us than they do to each other. Chimps and people had to work hard for food, mostly scrounging on fruit and nuts they could scrounge up (and the occasional bug), but sometimes hitting the big time by hunting down a big juicy steak (monkey for chimps, and mammoth for us).

Bonobos, on the other hand, are more vegetarian, and live in a salad bowl. They live on a nutritious, herbaceous root that is plentiful all over Congo.

So it makes sense that bonobos have evolved to play it safe, while chimps and humans like the edge of a little risk. Which is probably what lead to the stock market, lottery tickets, and Las Vegas.

*My new book Bonobo Handshake is out now. It’s available on Amazon, or through my website

chimpanzee dealer jailed in Congo!


“A wildlife dealer who tried to sell a chimpanzee in the Republic of Congo has been sentenced to a year in prison and fined 1.1 million Fcfa (USD $2,188), a severe penalty that came about through the dogged work of the Projet Protection des Gorilles (PPG) – Congo and other conservation organizations in the region.

The Brazzaville Court ruled on March 19, 2009, that the dealer had violated Article 49 of the Congolese law, which bans the sale of endangered species in Congo.

The case made headline news in the Congolese newspaper, Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, and was led by the Project to Apply the Law on Fauna (PALF), a consortium that includes PPG-Congo’s parent organization, The Apsinall Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

PPG-Congo is a charter member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), which coordinates activities between primate rescue and rehabilitation centers across Africa.

The fact that a chimpanzee dealer can not only be arrested and prosecuted but also sentenced to jail for his crimes in Africa is extremely good news,” said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA. For too long, PASA sanctuaries have had to deal with the confiscated chimpanzees and gorillas of the black market, while the illegal traders go free. But the fantastic results won by PALF can serve as an example for the rest of Africa to follow.

PALF, which has 10 more cases pending in the Congolese courts, works closely with the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), an organization that specializes in wildlife crimes and law enforcement from its base in Cameroon. PALF is also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy backs PALF’s work.

Said PPG-Congo coordinator Luc Mathot: We hope this first case against a wildlife dealer in Republic of Congo will help us for the several next ones.'”

“Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET

Tucked into a rural section of Louisiana, a few miles from Lafayette, an unexpected compound springs from the landscape. It is the nation’s largest primate testing lab. The New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana, houses more than 6,000 primates and one of the largest captive populations of chimpanzees in the world.

“Nightline” obtained the results of a nine-month undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. A Humane Society investigator took a hidden camera inside the New Iberia Research Center for most of 2008. The video shows what the Society says is the way monkeys and great apes are treated behind closed doors.

The New Iberia Research Center is a public facility, and its research includes contract work for pharmaceutical companies and hepatitis studies. The lab receives millions in public funding but limited public scrutiny.

“Facilities are very secretive in general,” said the investigator, who asked to remain anonymous because of the investigation. “It’s hard to get a lot of good information out of what really goes on. You rarely see images other than what is kind of posted on the Web sites. Going undercover in a place is the only way you’ll see what’s the truth.”

The Humane Society investigator told ABC News that chimpanzees, often perched several feet off the ground, are shot with sedation guns, with little regard for their safety. The video shows chimps crashing to the floor.