, Volume 55, Issue 4, pp 533–542 | Cite as

Female sociality during the daytime birth of a wild bonobo at Luikotale, Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Pamela Heidi DouglasEmail author
Original Article


Parturition is one of the most important yet least observed events in studies of primate life history and reproduction. Here, I report the first documented observation of a bonobo (Pan paniscus) birth event in the wild, at the Luikotale Bonobo Project field site, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The nulliparous mother’s behaviour before, during and after parturition is described, along with reactions of other community members to the birth and the neonate. Data were collected through focal-animal observations, and the events postpartum were photo-documented. The behaviour and spatial distribution of party members were recorded using scan samples. Parturition occurred during the late morning in a social context, with parous females in close proximity to the parturient mother. Placentophagia occurred immediately after delivery, and the parturient shared the placenta with two of the attending females. I compare this observation with reports of parturition in captive bonobos, and highlight the observed female sociality and social support during the birth event. Plausible adaptive advantages of parturition occurring in a social context are discussed, and accrued observations of birth events in wild and free-ranging primates suggest that females may give birth within proximity of others more frequently than previously thought. This account contributes rare empirical data for examining the interface between female sociality and parturition, and the evolution of parturitional behaviours in primates.


Birth Pan paniscus Parturition Perinatal behaviour Placentophagia Female sociality 



These observations were made during a study supported by the Max Planck Society and by additional funding from the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. Gottfried Hohmann and Barbara Fruth gave me the opportunity to work at the field site of Luikotale and supported all stages of my fieldwork. I thank the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) for permission to work in the forests surrounding Salonga National Park, and extend special thanks to the people of the village of Lompole for granting access to the forest of their ancestors. I sincerely thank Robyn Thiessen-Bock for assistance with observations, Lucas Goldstone for conducting pregnancy tests in the field, Quidel Corporation and Verify Diagnostics for the donation of hCG pregnancy test kits, and Marike Schreiber for producing the drawing in this paper. I acknowledge with gratitude Drs. Barbara Fruth, Gottfried Hohmann and Frances D. Burton for their enriching discussions and comments, as well as Dr. Wenda Trevathan and one anonymous reviewer for their helpful suggestions on this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PrimatologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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