A Kinder Gentler Ancestor

On Sunday morning I listened with rapt fascination to a radio program about the bonobo chimps.

The bonobo is as genetically similar to humans as the chimpanzee. These peace-loving apes live in matriarchal societies and use sex to deal with competition and anger. They reside only in a very small area of forest below the Congo River in Africa and they’ve been at risk in recent years because of civil unrest, logging, and hunting. The Bonobo Conservation Initiative is creating a refuge for them called the Bonobo Peace Forest. Host Steve Curwood talks with Dr. Amy Parish, scientific advisor for the Initiative.

Parish spoke eloquently about the matriarchal society of the bonobo and the insight it may give us to our own past. She speaks about human sexism practiced within zoos. Really interesting stuff. Listen to the whole Living on Earth program here.

This post has 3 Comments

  1. Bob Painter on November 2, 2005 at 10:16 pm Reply

    Petey, I thought you were going to detail the fact that bonobos are very homosexual in their relationships. I was very surprised when I learned this sexual tidbit about the primates.

    Memphis Zoo has bonobos. I catch myself looking with intent each time I’m there to see if there’s any guy-on-guy action. I might have to exclaim: “Oh, my gosh! Those male bonobos are gay” and grin with delight…

  2. Peterson Toscano on November 3, 2005 at 8:26 pm Reply

    Bobby, 🙂 I was going for the broader signifigance of the bonobo society, how they are less aggressive and power driven as chimpanzees. But yes, they do regularly display same-gender sexual activities, particularly among the females, but also the males.

    Lesbian monkeys, what will they think of next?

  3. Bob Painter on November 3, 2005 at 9:27 pm Reply

    Hmmm…perhaps ex-gay penguins?!?

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