Bonobo LOVE

“Bonobos are part of the ape family,

they live in Zaire with no gender hierarchy.

From our gracile relatives we could really learn a lot –

but for now we fight the Taliban with its evil, evil plot.”

A Song about Bonobos / Jen Taylor 2002

We share 98.7% of our DNA with Bonobos which means they are our closest living genetic relative alongside chimpanzees.  Peaceful in nature, their social structure is egalitarian and partnership-based, in contrast to the hierarchies of chimps.

They are the only Great Ape who does not kill. Bonobos do yoga. We taught them sign language.

They made up their own word for watermelon. They call it sugar-water.

Orphaned bonobo who lost her mother and her hand to poachers. Bonobos face two direct threats: habitat destruction and poaching.

I had the amazing fortune to meet Sally Coxe, founder of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative this past fall. Everyone who knows me, knows how I feel about Bonobos. You can’t be around me for long before I mention them.


Bonobos & chimpanzees are our closest genetic relatives, but couldn’t be more different from each other and seem to represent two aspects of ourselves.


For instance, female chimps suffer quite a bit of male issued violence. Bonobos do not for one reason. They cooperate with each other.


Unwanted sexual advances are rare in a Bonobo’s world. If a bonobo male gets out of line, the females of the group band together and give the errant male “a lesson” he won’t forget, including in one observed instance, the biting off of a finger.

Young bonobo in forest. (Photo by Russell Mittermeier)

I love Bonobos. We have much to learn from them. They are the only Great Ape who do not kill & make war on one another. Peace is possible. Bonobos know.


Bonobos live in an isolated pocket of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I wrote the song above back when it was still Zaire.  That is how long Bonobos have inspired me. Social scientists used to think our innate animal natures doomed us to act like chimpanzees, but now we know better. Bonobos live in a paradigm of mutuality and cooperation. One that is in our DNA, also.

Anyway, there are an estimated 15,000 left in the wild. They need our help.


It’s a fascinating story.


We did not recognize Bonobos as a unique/ separate species until the 1940’s when we undertook a project to teach sign language to Chimpanzees. It worked.  They learned sign language, but every time we had a “super smart” chimp, we actually had a Bonobo.


Photo by Russell Mittermeier

We had never “seen” them before due to our own cultural blinders. It is hard to recognize a paradigm different than your own. Much the same way the European colonizers failed to recognize the matrifocal structuring of indigenous cultures on Turtle Island in 1492, the societal structuring of Bonobo life is so radically different from our own, that we simply could not see them until we came into direct observational contact with them.


15K Bonobos for 15K Humans


The real Bonobo story is heartbreaking.  Habitat loss & poaching decimates them on a daily basis. Sally Coxe is one of my heroes. You can hear her speaking in the video below. Her organization, BCI, works to empower and bring resources to the local population, a beautiful & sustainable model.

You probably don’t live in the Congo, but what happens there directly impacts all of us. The Congo Rainforest is the 2nd lung of the planet after the Amazon.

Protecting Bonobos = preserving rainforest = mitigating climate change.

Bonobo Land. The rainforest of the Congo is the 2nd lung of the planet, after the Amazon rainforest. (Photo by Russell Mittermeier)


So, in partnership with Bonobos, The Sanctuary has joined the 15K Bonobos for 15K Humans CrowdRise Campaign as Shepardfields, Inc. (our incorporated name).

Please take the time to learn more about Bonobos and join the campaign  

Just $20 will do.  Imagine, $20 only from 15,000 humans…   




Bonobos / The Forgotten Ape from Jen Taylor on Vimeo.