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Events · 9th August 2014
Kirsty Graham
If you ‘ve never heard of bonobos, you’re not alone. When I tell people that I’m doing my PhD, studying “gestural communication of wild bonobos”, the response is typically one of polite cluelessness, “ah, yes” accompanied with slow nodding. If, however, the person has heard of bonobos, the response in one of pure excitement, “Bonobos! The make-love-not-war ape?” Bonobos are becoming more well-known, as an alternative model for human nature contrasted with chimpanzees. Bonobos look a lot like chimpanzees, and for a long time we thought they were the same species. A closer look reveals some interesting differences. Chimpanzee males can be considered political; they form coalitions and have a structured hierarchy. All chimp males are higher ranking than females. Bonobos, on the other hand, form an egalitarian society and females play a pivotal role. Female bonobos have different ways of forming strong social bonds that allow them to band together and decide where the group will travel and who will get to eat first. These social differences, among others, make bonobos a very exciting species to study.

On Sunday, August 10th, I will be giving a presentation on bonobo behaviour and conservation. I will describe bonobo behaviour realistically, dispelling certain myths that juxtapose bonobos and chimpanzees. My research involves filming social interactions so that I can look for gestural communication. Bonobos, like chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, use gestures (intentional movements of their limbs or body) to communicate with other individuals. I will share some of my videos, and talk about my results so far. Finally, we will discuss conservation–an inevitable interest for anyone working in the biological sciences. Please join me at the Quadra Community Centre at 6:30pm on August 10th, to share my experiences with one of the most fascinating (I might be biased), and least well-understood species of great ape, the bonobo.

Admission by donation, proceeds will support 2 community projects at Wamba – a new photocopying/printing facility, and a small agricultural startup.