One of my favorite magazines is Smithsonian, put out monthly by the national museum of the same name. Every issue is full of fascinating historical and scientific treasures to delight and inform. This month is no exception with articles about Marie Antoinette, Chile, and the history of the Pilgrims' passage to this country.
But the article that most interested me was a description of the Bonobos of Africa. I've heard of these guys before, largely about how sexually lusty they are. But that's been the limit of my knowledge. So this article, which you can read here, was a welcome chance to learn more.
Along with chimpanzees, these are our nearest relations in the animal kingdom. They're somewhat smaller than chimps, weighing in at under 100 pounds when fully grown. And they do like sex, a lot. It seems to be one of their favorite pastimes, makes me think of another primate I know. With some native guides, the author, Paul Raffaele, followed a tribe of Bonobos for several days. He describes his adventure with the apes in wonderful detail, starting with having dung thrown at him by the alpha male, who apparently didn't like his looks.
Of course, as with most articles about animals in the wild, this one carries the sad news that encroaching human activities are seriously threatening the survival of these very special apes. Unfortunately for the Bonobos, they only live in one area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the most war-torn countries on earth. Fortunately, at least according to the article, the civil wars ended in 2003 and there's some hope that Bonobos can be preserved in the wild. A quick Google search turned up the Bonobo Conservation Initiative working to save these little guys.
Here's a picture of a Bonobo named Kanzi learning to communicate using a board with special symbols. The scientist working with Kanzi is Sue Savage-Rumbaugh of the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. The Trust has 200 acres near Des Moines for the study and conservation of all types of great apes. Click on the picture to see a larger version.