The Bonobos

Part of the series Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects pp 1-8


  • Takeshi FuruichiAffiliated withPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto University
  • , Jo ThompsonAffiliated withLukuru Project, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation

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Nearly eighty years have passed since the bonobo was officially designated as a unique species (Coolidge 1933). Homo and Pan share 98.8% of some DNA sequences (Sibley and Ahlquist 1987, The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium 2005), making the chimpanzees and bonobos our closest living relatives. Although we have known our cousin the bonobo in some capacity for more than 125 years (Thompson 2001), the bonobo is still considered the least known of the great apes. Although field work beginning in 1938 focused on bonobos specifically for collecting museum specimens, the first systematic field studies of living bonobos in their natural environment began in 1972, pioneered by Professor Toshisada Nishida. Though brief, Nishida conducted a survey of the region along the west bank of Lake Tumba. In July that same year, a team from Yale University, United States began a two-year study at Lake Tumba; the first field study site. Broader scientific research in nature commenced in 1973 when Professor Takayoshi Kano, the first scientist to study bonobos extensively in the wild, conducted a wide-reaching survey throughout the core forest block region south of the Congo River, resulting in the establishment of the first long-term field site for the study of bonobos since 1974.