, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 7–12 | Cite as

Cases of maternal cannibalism in wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) from two different field sites, Wamba and Kokolopori, Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Nahoko TokuyamaEmail author
  • Deborah Lynn Moore
  • Kirsty Emma Graham
  • Albert Lokasola
  • Takeshi Furuichi
News and Perspectives


Maternal cannibalism, whereby a mother consumes her own offspring, occurs in various animal taxa and is commonly explained by nutritional stress or environmental pressures. It is rare in nonhuman primates and is considered an aberrant behavior only observed under high-stress conditions. It was therefore surprising when, in the first reported case of cannibalism in wild bonobos, a mother consumed part of the dead infant at LuiKotale. Here we report two more cases of maternal cannibalism by wild bonobos at two different study sites, Wamba and Kokolopori. The dead infants’ mothers participated in the cannibalism in both cases. At Kokolopori, although the mother did consume part of the carcass, it was held and shared by another dominant female. At Wamba, the mother was a dominant female within the community and was the primary consumer of the carcass. In both cases, cannibalism resembled other meat-eating events, with the dominant female controlling meat consumption. Infanticide was not observed in either case, but its occurrence could not be ruled out. Although rare, the occurrence of maternal cannibalism at three different study sites suggests that this may represent part of the behavioral repertoire of bonobos, rather than an aberrant behavior.


Bonobo Cannibalism Meat eating Pan paniscus Thanatology 



We thank the Research Center for Ecology and Forestry and the Ministry of Scientific Research, DRC. We sincerely thank field assistants in Wamba and Kokolopori. This study was financially supported by the Global Leadership Training Program in Africa, provided by the United Nations University (to N.T.), as well as a Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and a University of St Andrews 600th Anniversary Scholarship (to K.E.G.). This article is in loving memory of Deborah Lynn Moore.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 109658 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nahoko Tokuyama
    • 1
    Email author
  • Deborah Lynn Moore
    • 2
  • Kirsty Emma Graham
    • 3
  • Albert Lokasola
    • 2
  • Takeshi Furuichi
    • 1
  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteUniversity of KyotoInuyamaJapan
  2. 2.The Bonobo Conservation InitiativeWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.School of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of St AndrewsSt Andrews, FifeUK

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