Category Archives: Research

BBC Article: Promiscuous apes shout about sex

Here is a BBC article on some research carried out at Lola ya Bonobo by the ‘new’ Dr Zanna Clay, to read the article click on the image below.

You can also find her full scientific article by following the link below the image.

Click here for the full scientific article.

Apes unwilling to gamble when odds are uncertain.

To read the article please click on the image below:

Females better with tools?

Men are supposedly handier with a screwdriver, but not in our closest living relatives, bonobos. Apparently the females use tools more frequently and flexibly than the males, and use tools for a wide range of activities.

Researchers Thibaud Gruber and Klaus Zuberbu?hler of St Andrews University recently published their findings from Lola ya Bonobo. The findings are interesting because wild bonobos have not been seen to use tools as often or as flexibly as their chimpanzee relatives. One hypothesis for this is that the bonobo environment is so rich in food that they don’t need to use tools. But at the sanctuary, there was a wide range of tool use, including digging, using tools to reach objects, nut-cracking, and cleaning their teeth…

Female chimps also tend to be better at tool use than male chimps. If both female bonobos and chimps are better at tool use than males, I wonder where the learned helplessness of human females comes from.

One way the bonobos were using the tools that chimps haven’t discovered yet is for sexual stimulation! No surprised there I guess!!!

Interview with bonobo friend Gay Reinartz on Mongabay website

Gay Reinartz is a true friend of bonobos! Check out what she’s up to on the rest of the interview:

“Unlike every other of the world’s great apes—the gorilla, chimpanzee, and orangutan—saving the bonobo means focusing conservation efforts on a single nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While such a fact would seem to simplify conservation, according to the director of the Bonobo and Congolese Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI), Gay Reinartz, it in fact complicates it: after decades of one of world’s brutal civil wars, the DRC remains among the world’s most left-behind nations. Widespread poverty, violence, politically instability, corruption, and lack of basic infrastructure have left the Congolese people in desperate straits..”

For the complete interview, visit:

Lola in the New York Times

Hey everyone,

Brian and I did an interview for the NYT here:

We plugged Lola, of course!


A. Brian: Well, we went to the semiwild. There’s this amazing conservationist, Claudine Andre, who founded a sanctuary in Kinshasa for bonobos orphaned by the bush meat trade. She’d convinced the Congolese to let her use this 100-acre wood with lily ponds and forests that once had been a bucolic retreat for Mobutu Sese Seko.

Working with the orphans in the sanctuary, they were much more like wild animals than the captive bonobos one might study at a zoo. They were obviously much easier to see and interact with than animals in the forest.

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