Bonobo Handshake

150_VanessaWoodsVanessa Woods studies Bonobos. She is a researcher with the Hominoid Psychology Research Group, and is currently in Africa doing field work.
Bonobo share 98.7% of our DNA, equal to our more famous cousins, chimpanzees. But unlike chimps, we know hardly anything about them. Part of the reason for this is that there's been civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the last 10 years and bonobos don't live anywhere else. The other reason is that to see wild bonobos, you have to be prepared to canoe for 4 days up the Congo River through malaria infested swamps.

You can follow Wood's adventures and research (with videos) on her blog Bonobo Handshake. Link -via Metafilter

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It's a good thing that the habitat of the bonobos is so inaccessible. If not for that, they would probably be on the endangered species list by now!

...Whoops! I googled bonobos before posting this. They ARE on the endangered species list in spite of their inaccessibility!
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The Bonobo is a chimpanzee and was called a Pygmy Chimpanzee in days gone by. The Bonobo and the Common Chimpanzee together make up the chimpanzee genus,Pan.
(Pan paniscus and Pan troglodytes, respectively)
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There was an interesting article about bonobos (and how they are studied) in the New Yorker a while back. What little study of bonobos there had been suggested that are much more peaceful and have much more sex than chimps, and, if I remember correctly, had a matriarchal society. This being an idea that's extremely attractive to some people, those aspects of their behavior tend to be all any one discusses. Which means that they tend to be exagerated as any actual observations filter through what people want to see and what makes the most interesting story. Which is why people tend to discuss bonobos as the opposites of chimps - violent chimps, peaceful bonobos is an easily understandable story. Which is exacerbated by the fact that the work on bonobos that is most read and quoted is by Frans de Waal, who has never seen a wild bonobo, only those in captivity. The behavior of animals in a situation in which there is a constant food supply, no threat from predators, and nothing to do - not to mention in smaller groups than they are found in the wild - is different from behavior in the wild. It's an interesting artice, and can be found online.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/07/30/070730fa_fact_parker
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