On this page…

  1. Dr. Gay Reinartz’ Boy Friday and Pope Francis’ Favorite Ask of Georgetown U. China Scholars
  2. Dr. Gay Reinartz Podcast Link 2013
  3. The Last Great Ape
  4. A Nobel Prize for the Good Food ®Evolution!
  5. Bonobo survival. Human redemption.
  6. ZSM team arrival in Basankusu
  7. Dr. Gay Reinartz Report From the Congo Spring 2009
  8. Remembering Linda Bonobo of Milwaukee County Zoo
  9. Zoo YouTube Channel With Bonobos Feature
  10. Barbara Bell’s Obituary for Linda Bonobo
  11. Asking Why Do Species Go Extinct?
  12. What’s Next in the Law? The Unalienable Rights of Chimps
  13. Dr. Gay Reinartz April, 2008 Dispatch from the Congo
  14. Interview of Sally Jewell Coxe, president and co-founder of the Washington DC based non-profit Bonobo Conservation Initiative,
  15. Interview with Harry Prosen, M.D., Psychiatric Consultant Bonobo Species Survival Plan
  16. Conserving the Bonobo: a struggle between two worlds
  17. Pictures Capture Joyous Benefit for the Bonobos at the Venerable Coffee House
    1. 17.1  Here’s what people have to say about this event
  18. What Is a Bonobo and Why Should I Care
  19. Introducing Great Work of Dr. Gay Reinartz, Barbara Bell, and Dr. Harry Prosen
  20. Benefit time for bonobo
  21. Join the Milwaukee County Zoological Society to Advance the Bonobos’ Cause
  22. Bonobo Benefit at Coffee House, Jan 13, 7 p.m., 19th & Wisconsin, east basement entrance to Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church
    1. 22.1  Music by Embedded Reporter: “Low Brow Music for Smart People”
    2. 22.2  Brief Powerful Presentations by Barbara Bell, Bonobo Trainer, and Dr. Gay Reinartz, Congo Bonobo Survival and Bio-Diversity Projects.
    3. 22.3  Bonobo Psychiatric Consultant, Dr. Harry Prosen, Plans to Be Present for Introductions and Informal Conversation During Breaks
  23. All 5 Shepherd Links for Congo Reports
  24. Dispatches from the Congo November 29, 2007
  25. Dispatches from the Congo November 22, 2007
  26. Congo Creates Massive Reserve to Protect Close Human Cousin
  27. Dispatches from the Congo November 15, 2007
  28. Dispatches from the Congo November 08, 2007
  29. Bonobos, Left & Right
  30. The Sweet Politics of Savannah Baboons and Forest Bonobos
  31. Milwaukee Zoo a World Resource Regarding Our Primate Cousins-the Bonobos
    1. 31.1  Urban Ecology Center Talk on the Glorious Bonobos, June 7, 7 p.m.
    2. 31.2  The Zoological Society of Milwaukees 2007 book-Bonobos: “Encounters in Empathy”
  32. Scientific Literature on Bonobos
  33. Advise From a Channeled Bonobo Alpha Queen
  34. Noosphere Exchanges re the Bonobos
  35. Bonobo Species Survival Plan
  36. Bonobo Survival Project Gathers at the Riverwest Co-op, July 2 and July 8
  37. Letter to the “Shepherd” Editor in Thanks for Bonobo Cover Story
  38. “New Yorker” Long Essay on the Bonobos
    1. 38.1  Stirring Heated Political Debates on Human Nature, War, Gender, and Social Relations
  39. Bucketworks Director James Carlson’s “Dance of Chimpanzee w. Bonobo Man”
  40. Website Featuring Portraits of Gorillas
  41. Fragments from Jeremy Griffith’s “Great Exodus”

Dr. Gay Reinartz’ Boy Friday and Pope Francis’ Favorite Ask of Georgetown U. China Scholars

Dear Judith and James,

Wow! You two are on the spot. I hope you don’t judge me importunate for barging into your mind with tales of how important Dr. Gay’s work is and how and why I judge myself, with you and yours, equipped with resources to make a bit of history pulling together intellectuals and activists across the world to

Save the Bonobos!

“Madame Gay” is methinks a painfully shy Jean d’Arc of the species we now call Bonobo. During my Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan periods, my life was a series, often interrelated, of common good obsessions. The bonobos’ survival for the common good!

In my apprentice Yoda phase, my job is simply to connect complimentary young(anyone under 50) Olympian menschen with peers and worthy elders. “The organizational form of the 21st century is the network!” And cultural evolution involves “distributed cognitive networks” or “mind sharing” for common causes.

So…I am here in hopes of inspiring a tiny fraction of “woke ecopreneurs” from the Chinese/Vatican/Belgian/Japanese
communities to give some attention to the survival of the bonobos, building upon Gay’s work since 1993 in the Congo Solanga Forest, where she has been researching the bonobos’ presence, while also groping along in efforts to develop a coherent “park guard” force.


Gay and her team will be working with AWF to survey a corridor of this landscape for bonobo presence and distribution. The process will involve training local Congolese in bio-monitoring and data collection this training will also serve as a capacity building tool so that the local Congolese can continue this work after the ZSM has finished in this area.

Here’s one of Gay’s reports from Spring 2008 that inspires and informs, as do four others from the same period which still greatly inform.


Why Should We Care About Saving The Species Called Bonobo?

Bonobos are the real deal. They share more than 98% of our DNA. They are so much like us that some of us actually cry when we meet them for the first time. I think its a powerful primal response to their like us-ness, or a tangible reminder that we are not alone.

Bonobos look like chimps but they stand-up straighter. Whereas chimps are mesomorphic like a football running back, for example, bonobos are ectomorphic like a long-distance runner or wide receiver. In the wild they spend a great deal of time hanging out in the jungle canopy, eighty-feet above the ground/swamp/most of us.

The nature of bonobo society speaks directly to the question of why should I care (about bonobos). They have a complex society that is maternal centric. The alpha female is the dominant personality in the family/clan. She gets to be the alpha female based upon her skill at and propensity to groom others. Imagine a society in which leadership is bestowed as a result of ones record of service to others.

Another part of it is they resolve disputes by using affection and sex. Admittedly this is a very simplistic explanation of a social order replete with complexity and nuance, but it is at the heart of why we need to save the bonobos from extinction. Loss of the bonobos in the wild would be tragic in that they represent a portal into understanding ourselves.

Bonobos are endangered in the wild primarily because of habitat loss and poaching, victims of ignorance and third world poverty. If we lose the worlds wild poplulations, we will no longer be able to study them in their natural environment. They are only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa, in one relatively small location in a very troubled part of the world.

Godsil’s Ask

So I am hoping you might introduce the concept of a Chinese/Vatican/Belgian/Japanese/American collaboration experiment over the next 10 years to support Gay’s work, even if the results are only a documentary shared by tiny fractions in each country(and the Vatican’s network).

I am so astonished at how often I have wound up on the stage of history because of simple notes like this..
I have deep ties with the Jesuits across the world and can’t help but imagine a Laudato Si Celebration in Vatican Square with one giant screen sharing the story of, and our story with, the glorious bonobos!

Godsil As A Jesuit Trained Forest Gump

I am the circles image at Marquette Park, Chicago Open Housing Marches, in which I was a nanosecond bodyguard for Dr. King and teacher in a Freedom School.

My entrance on the stage of history has inspired me to imagine myself not justg as an Apprentice Yoda, but also as a Jesuit Trained Forest Gump. The Jesuits, for example, gave me $8,000 in 1966 for the St. Louis U. Great Issues Series, which had a huge impact on bringing the talented 10% of the Catholics of St. Louis into the modern age.

I introduced the South Side Chicago Sweet Water Foundation team to whom Naomi Klein identified as a key draft writer and Pope Francis’ ecological advisor.

Sweet Water Team At Irish Museum of Modern Art w. Fr. Sean McDonagh

The State Department sent me to India to share the Growing Power and Sweet Water Urban Ag and Aquaponics stories.

With Jimmy Carter during Habitat building project…

I could go on and on with the miracles of my life related to notes like this.

I hope this is the first of many with you and yours to

Save the Bonobos!

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Dr. Gay Reinartz Podcast Link 2013


The Last Great Ape

Tuesday, December 22 at 8 pm ET/PT on NOVA

Check your local listings as dates and times may vary.

With their intelligent gaze, human-like posture, and peaceful nature, it’s no wonder bonobosone of five great apes, along with gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and humansremind us of ourselves. But while we share a common hominoid ancestor with bonobos as well as 98 percent of our DNA, this unique primate has been largely overlooked by all but a few scientists. Learn more on NOVA’s “The Last Great Ape.”

See a slide show of bonobo gestures and facial expressions and find out what they mean, see where you stand among the great apes in an audiovisual interactive, and more on the program’s companion website.

Watch the program online beginning December 23.
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Etate Burning.jpg this is an old picture from when Etate was a poachers camp. We burned the old Etate to the ground and re-built it as a research station.

Rebuild Etate 3 M6.jpg this is a slightly newer picture of building Etate as our new research station.

This is our most recent shot of Etate from the river (similar to the shot of burning etate). This is how it looks now with many guard barracks, kitchen, and gathering places.

Another recent shot of Etate from on the grounds (similar to the old rebuilding picture).

An old picture of how the original guards looked before their training.

Picture of Gay with the current Etate guards.

More to come!

A Nobel Prize for the Good Food ®Evolution!

Bill Clintons declaration of Growing Powers Will Allen as my hero,
And commitment of $2,000,000 for Big Wills contextually appropriate,
cost efficient, high yield, sustainable, local food system models
for South Africa and Zimbabwe


The Milwaukee Zoological Societys Congo Bio Diversity projects
possibly linking their work with the aquaculture initiatives
of the new Wisconsin School of Fresh Water Sciences and
Growing Power

suggests our movement may not be far from a Nobel Prize for
our work, properly accorded to Will Allen, whose Growing Power team
and its widening web of partners throughout the world are firmly establishing
the linkage of food security and world security, as Will is constantly reminding us.

Bill Clinton
Will Allen
Food Security

Benign globalization!

As Grace Lee Boggs expresses it


Or Big Wills good food revolution!

A richly deserved Nobel Prize for our Big Guy,
Whose collaborative methodologies translate into

a Nobel Prize for

The good food workers of the world.

Bonobo survival. Human redemption.


Bonobo survival.
Human redemption.

I am a Board Member of Growing Power, which has a good chance, in Will Allen’s words, of making Milwaukee “The Urban Agriculture City of America.”

Fred Binkowski of the Great Lakes Water Institute properly states that Milwaukee has the resources to become the Urban Aquaculture City of America.

In my mind, the work of Dr. Gay, Dr. Davis, and the Milwaukee Zoological Society,
in their Bonobo Survival and Congo Biodiversity Progorams, are laying the foundation for Milwaukee to become the “Bonobo Survival City of America.”

Bonobo survival,
Human redemption.

I can see the day when our Milwaukee children go forth to the entire world and make history preserving our sacred species from destruction.

Bonobo survival,
Human redemption.

ZSM team arrival in Basankusu

Dear Friends, Family and Supporters,

Gay, Nathaniel and Patrick arrived safely in Basankusu yesterday after a 30 hr pirogue ride. They arrived safely, but a bit sunburnt!

This trip is different from our previous trips to DRC in that we are collaborating with the African Wildlife Foundation to survey an area of the landscape in which AWF does their conservation work the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba landscape. Gay and her team will be working with AWF to survey a corridor of this landscape for bonobo presence and distribution. The process will involve training local Congolese in bio-monitoring and data collection this training will also serve as a capacity building tool so that the local Congolese can continue this work after the ZSM has finished in this area.

For your reference, I have attached a map which details where ZSM normally conducts their research and conservation work in the Salonga National Park (shown in yellow), the new landscape where the team is heading this trip — the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba landscape (shown in green) and the corridor within that landscape where we will be conducting research during this mission (shown in pink).

The trip thus far has involved flying from Kinshasa to Mbandaka (both the ZSM team and our cargo). From Mbandaka, the team and cargo loaded the pirogues and travelled by river to Basankusu. From Basankusu, the team and cargo will again travel by river to the pink colored study site.

We will keep you updated on the teams whereabouts as information becomes available. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact the ZSM offices (by email or phone) if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks and best wishes,

Stefanie McLaughlin
Assistant Conservation Coordinator
Zoological Society of Milwaukee
1421 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 276–0339 ext. 302
(414) 276–0886 - fax
SKYPE: stefanie.mclaughlin
[email protected]
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Dr. Gay Reinartz Report From the Congo Spring 2009

We have just come back from an 8 day tour, and the field work is finally over!! We are wiped. My feet and knees may never recover from the swamps and the roots and the twisted trails. This has been the most difficult tour of our stay here due to its length, the consistent rains, the weight of food, and the distances we had to walk just to get to the sampling area! We were three teams, each covering approximately 90 km of few trails and bushwhacking.

For this trip, each team (8 persons) had to be ferried to the forest by pirogues in order to reach the main trail head since the water is now rising — we have had rain every day. The teams separated at the trail head and went different directions in order to sample the broadest possible area. Nat went west (then northwest), Pat east, and I, south. It was worrisome to say good-bye since we knew this trip would test our strength and endurance to the extreme. For our team, we walked 2 days to reach the southern most river, the Longkomo, and we sampled long transects that cover the main ridge. Patrick and Nathaniel went to what is called the ‘Big Forest’ — a new area in the eastern most portion of the study area, which we hoped would have the mother load of bonobos. My team found around 50 nests in all, but Nathaniel and Patrick unfortunately found huge hunting pressures, many snares, essentially no bonobos in that section.

On the 8th day, each team was to head back toward the trail head. I don’t think I have ever crossed so many swamps in all my days in Congo - mud and water hip high. My team was wonderful, and I had abundant help over fallen logs and river crossings — even when I didn’t need any! Bipole, the hunter, who is our main guide and my self-appointed protector, would nearly break my hand each time he escorted me over fallen trees, gripping it so hard to make sure that Madame does not fall. I felt like a chicken caught and carried by the wing. On the 8th day, we had to struggle to meet our pick-up goal because we got caught in some very thick understory of secondary forest - nasty stuff thick with thorns and vines. Eventually at 3:00 p.m., we reached the trail head where we found out from the locals that Patrick’s group had already come out that morning and that Nathaniel’s group had reached the point one hour before our arrival, all well and safe, no major incidences. We gratefully clambered aboard the waiting pirogue and a great cheer went up from the men — back to dry beds, food, and a well deserved rest.

In this base camp, we have an unexpected treat, a wonderful local guitarist who bellows out folk songs and plays a homemade guitar. So, last night to celebrate our return, we bought some local whiskey, jazzed up Mr. Iruz, and threw ourselves a grand dancing party !! Drums made from water jugs and guitar: it doesn’t get much better than this.

We’re resting up today, going over the data sheets and downloading the GPS points. It appears that the bonobo here is strictly confined to a strip nearly equidistant between the populated areas along the major rivers. This is also where we find the loveliest forest…, so it will be hard to test our hypothesis that bonobos prefer the mixed mature forests with the Marantaceae understory. We’ll see how the numbers shake out. We look forward to the analysis.

Within the next 3 days, we will try to wrap up things with the students. After 2 months of work and living so close together, it will be an emotional departure for each of us. The men are already asking whether we will see each other again and discussing how we can stay in touch by phonie/radio. I can’t bear to think about it yet. We plan to head back to Basankusu beginning the 11th. Because we only have the small pirogue this far upriver, we will have to make several trips back and forth on the Lomako in order to move our equipment, the rest of the fuel and ourselves back down to Bombese, our original base camp. I can’t believe we are on the “homestretch.” (I tried to teach the guys one night what “homestretch” means; another one of my failed attempts to close the cultural gap! They were too polite to say, Madame, we have NO idea what you are talking about.)

Much love, Gay
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Remembering Linda Bonobo of Milwaukee County Zoo

Londa Bonobo was captured in present day DRC in 1958 at an estimated age of two years. Her first captive home was at the Antwerp Zoo until she went to the San Diego Zoo in 1962. At San Diego, she and her mate, Kakowet (approximately 4 years her junior) produced nearly a dozen infants. Kakowet died in 1980 and in 1982 Linda moved from San Diego to the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta. She then came to us in 1995 and was reunited with one of her daughters, Laura, and introduced to the rest of our group. While here she proved herself to be a wonderful foster mother, a caring individual and a dominant force to be dealt with, especially by young males in their ‘obnoxious years’. She will be missed by many, bonobos and humans alike. She leaves behind her seven living offspring, twenty-seven ‘grandchildren’, twenty-two ‘great-grandchildren’ and five ‘great-great-grandchildren’.

More pictures and memories of Linda by Mark Scheuber at…


If you have any response to Linda’s passing you would like to share at this sight,
Please send them my way.

Greetings James,

Unfortunately all I could find of the ‘ol girl were these. Many years with her we spent watching her control situations, or in these latter months of her life try and control them. She was kind and caring to many young and old. As one of the leading ladies of the troupe she had carried weighted responsibilities. She was also one of the most effective equalizers, settling disputes or nuisance members with swift action. In case of the youngsters not keeping up with the fission/fusion of groups during shifting times, she’d help them along and get them going in the right direction (she and our eldest male, Lody, who is still with us, would have the greatest success at this) She won’t be forgotten by any means. None of the guys (bonobos) could possibly be forgotten through shipment to another zoological institution or by “passing on” here at MCZ. Each individual that is in our troupe hold distinct personalities and develop thier personalities in this incredably diverse group for the years they are with us. Other bonobos passing thought MCZ (those that stay for a few years and move on due to SSP recomendations) bring with them thier skills that our more permanent members pick up on and then hold on to and slip them into thier own personalities. She was an anchor for many years. Her anchor has wieghed. But hopefully soon another will drop into theses sands here among the troupe. There most likely one member here at MCZ that will take up her role someday. Until then, there will be a period when they all will need to settle disputes and the nuisance members with out her help. We’ll all miss her and we’ll most likely wish that she was back when some of the troupe members forget thier place in the troupe.

I’ll be more than happy to share my photos of the other members of our troupe whenever you’d like to see them. Keep in touch.

Talk to you soon,

Mark Scheuber

I pray humanity learns to grow and eat more fish,
So we bonobos are not a protein temptation.
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Zoo YouTube Channel With Bonobos Feature

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Barbara Bell’s Obituary for Linda Bonobo

Pictures will soon follow.

Just wanted to let you all know that we had to euthanized Linda Bonobo Sunday afternoon. She will be missed. Just wanted to send along a few facts about her that may be of interest to you. She was captured in present day DRC in 1958 at an estimated age of two years. Her first captive home was at the Antwerp Zoo until she went to the San Diego Zoo in 1962. At San Diego, she and her mate, Kakowet (approximately 4 years her junior) produced nearly a dozen infants. Kakowet died in 1980 and in 1982 Linda moved from San Diego to the Yerkes Primate Research Center in Atlanta. She then came to us in 1995 and was reunited with one of her daughters, Laura, and introduced to the rest of our group. While here she proved herself to be a wonderful foster mother, a caring individual and a dominant force to be dealt with, especially by young males in their ‘obnoxious years’. She will be missed by many, bonobos and humans alike. She leaves behind her seven living offspring, twenty-seven ‘grandchildren’, twenty-two ‘great-grandchildren’ and five ‘great-great-grandchildren’.
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Asking Why Do Species Go Extinct?

A Conversation With Stuart L. Pimm

Published: November 3, 2008 New York Times

For a man whose scholarly specialty is one of the grimmest topics on earth extinction Stuart L. Pimm is remarkably chipper. On a recent morning, while visiting New York City, Dr. Pimm, a 59-year-old zoologist, was full of warm stories about the many places he travels: South Africa, Madagascar and even South Florida, which he visits as part of an effort to save the endangered Florida panther. Fewer than 100 survive in the wild. In 2006, Dr. Pimm, who holds the Doris Duke professorship of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, won the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences, the Nobel of the ecology world.


A. In 1978, I went to Hawaii, supposedly a tropical paradise. I am an enthusiastic birder, and I looked forward to getting into the lush forest to view the abundant flora and fauna the islands were famous for. Here you had this rich island chain, out in the midst of the Pacific, full of wondrous birds and plants a place supposedly richer in natural diversity than even the Galpagos.

I had brought with me field guides to the fauna and flora, all published in the early 1970s. Yet once in the Hawaiian forest, I had a shock: my books were listing species that were extinct or about to become so. I was in the forest six days a week and I kept thinking, If I give it enough time, Ill certainly see most of the species still left. But I saw very little. In fact, in Hawaii today, Id say there are only about 10 remaining native land bird species, with another 10 clinging to survival.

So suddenly this extinction business seemed very real. Whenever youd meet biologists over coffee, thered be the same conversation: Do you ever wonder what Hawaii was like before, with 150 species of birds and 1,500 species of plants? That changed my life.


A. Well, I realized that extinction was something that as a scientist, I could study. I could ask, Why do species go extinct? and How fast does it happen? Once armed with that information, one might do something about it.

I now spend a fair amount of time in Washington, working for laws to protect species. I train young people to do the same. I often tell my students that if they want to become environmental biologists, they have to be prepared to go out into the field at dawn to collect their data and then dress up in a suit in the afternoon to meet the visiting politician.


A. There are too many to name. Something like 12 percent of all birds, a third of all amphibians and, likely, similarly large numbers of plants are in serious danger, Id say. Whats more, about 1 percent of all species on the planet are in such trouble that if we dont do the right things immediately they will be gone in a decade.

The river dolphin in China was declared extinct just last year. Another small dolphin in the Sea of Cortez is in immediate danger.


A. One of the things Ive done is start an NGO a nongovernmental organization called SavingSpecies.org. And it does what its title suggests. Weve been working with local conservation groups and governments in Brazil and Madagascar doing a variety of projects that we hope will halt the potential extinctions there.

One of the things we know is that many endangered animals live over large areas. But their populations become fragmented because of farming and development. The remaining creatures cant find a date on a Saturday night. So weve been trying to buy up degraded land around their broken environments and try to create land corridors for the wildlife.


A. Yes. On the Atlantic Coast of Brazil, weve been trying to help save the golden lion tamarin, an endangered primate about the size of a house cat. Last year, with the involvement of local conservationist groups, we helped purchase about 270 acres of cattle pasture that separated two patches of their habitat. This former pasture is now being replanted with trees. The two areas will soon be bridged, and it will be possible for lonely hearts to meet members of the opposite sex and go forth and multiply.

In another South American region I wont name here, there have been a lot of illegal logs taken. Why? Because a local godfather there was getting kickbacks from loggers. My friends and I decided wed give him a bit more money and we stopped the illegal logging. I may burn in hell forever for paying protection, but it did help the animals and the indigenous people, who were not subjected to a lot of bad things. In terms of what we got for the money, it was a very good deal.


A: Because when you set aside indigenous reserves, it reduces deforestation.

Theres another project in Northern Amazonia that my group has been involved in. This particular area is inhabited by indigenous peoples who have clear title to the land in their village. Recently, settlers came into the area, wanting to turn the forests outside of the village the very places where these people hunt and fish into rice fields. Their claim was that no one owned the forests. So my Brazilian students and a local Catholic mission have been teaching the tribes teenagers the use of modern global positioning technologies G.P.S. The idea is that G.P.S. can help them can record where they hunt and fish and that will help them define the forest land as theirs. So heres an example of when we help the local people maintain their traditional ways, were helping the flora and the fauna survive.


A. We raise money in the traditional way, but were also selling symbolic carbon offsets to sympathetic donors.

As you know, when you restore forests, you soak up CO2 from the atmosphere. There are people whod like to be carbon neutral theyd like not to burn any more carbon than they are soaking up. So if someone buys an airline ticket and feels badly about all the carbon theyre putting into the atmosphere during that flight, we sell them very beautiful, very cheap offsets from the forest restoration we have done.

We hope that this kind of swap will eventually become a financial obligation in a lot of the world.


A. Im a believing Christian. God so loved the cosmos that he gave his only son. Thats an injunction from St. John. To me, this says that Christians have an obligation to look after the world stewardship. We cannot pointlessly drive species to extinction and destroy forests and oceans. When we do that, we are destroying Gods creation.

That said, Im not a vegetarian. I like a good steak now and then. Do I go out and slaughter cattle? Yep.
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What’s Next in the Law? The Unalienable Rights of Chimps

Published: July 14, 2008

Spain’s parliament recently passed a resolution granting legal rights to apes. Reaction has been mixed. Peter Singer, a Princeton University bioethics professor and animal liberation activist, declared the vote to be of “world historical significance.” The comedian Stephen Colbert flashing a photo of a performing chimpanzee insisted that the new law had better not give apes “the right to not wear a tuxedo and roller skates.”

In fact, it will likely do just that. A nonbinding resolution in Spain, which the Parliament now has to flesh out with more specific laws, allows apes to be kept in zoos but not used in circuses or other kinds of performances. It calls for banning research that harms apes.

With the resolution, Spain becomes the world leader in protecting the rights of apes, but perhaps not for long. Austrian animal rights activists are fighting to have a chimp named Matthew Hiasl Pan declared a person. They have lost so far, but are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

Granting legal rights to apes is, of course, easy to mock and animal rights activists don’t do themselves any favors. In media accounts, they usually come off as loopy whether it is Matthew’s supporters insisting that “everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even chimps,” or Pedro Pozas, the secretary-general of the Spanish Great Ape Project, declaring “I am an ape.”

The animal rights movement also suffers from association with its least appealing advocates. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals constantly sets back its cause with boneheaded moves, like the ad it ran juxtaposing photos of penned-up animals with starving Jews in concentration camps.

Too often, animal-rights supporters seem to care about animals to the exclusion of people. Leona Helmsley epitomized this strain when she left $12 million to her dog and instructed that virtually all of her multibillion-dollar estate be used to care for dogs.

The anti-animal rights camp, however, does not come off much better. Many base their opposition on the Bible specifically, the verse in Genesis granting man “dominion” over “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” It’s hard to see why that should be interpreted as divine endorsement for using chimps in crash tests, or why, even if it were, it should guide secular law.

Animal rights opponents often rely on tired “slippery slope” arguments that if apes have the right not to be abused, soon goldfish will be able to sue their owners for not changing the water. Even Mr. Singer, who is often branded an animal-rights extremist, says species should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. American laws notably the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act already do this.

Much of the opposition to animal rights is really economic. The campaign against the anti-cruelty referendum that will be on the California ballot this November to prohibit keeping calves, hens and pigs in inhumanely small cages is being financed in large part by egg and meat producers.

Strip away the goofier rhetoric of the ape-rights activists, and their claim is straightforward. Great apes are biologically very close to humans; chimps and humans share about 98 percent of their DNA. Apes have complex communication skills and close emotional bonds. They experience loneliness and sorrow. They deserve some respect.

It sounds odd to say that apes have rights or to call a chimpanzee a “person.” As a legal matter, though, it is not such a stretch. People in irreversible comas have rights. Even corporations are recognized as “persons,” with free speech and equal protection rights, and the ability to sue and be sued.

If apes are given rights, they are not going to get the same ones as humans just rights that are deemed appropriate to their status. Matthew’s supporters are trying to have him declared a person because his animal sanctuary has had financial trouble, and they want him to be able to accept donations for his own support. It’s hard to see the harm in that.

Critics object that recognizing rights for apes would diminish human beings. But it seems more likely that showing respect for apes would elevate humans at the same time.

American law is becoming increasingly cruel. The Supreme Court recently ruled that states are not obliged to administer lethal injections in ways that avoid unnecessary risk that inmates will suffer great pain. If apes are given the right to humane treatment, it just might become harder to deny that same right to their human cousins.
Click here for original article]]
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Dr. Gay Reinartz April, 2008 Dispatch from the Congo

Dispatches from the Congo
Extended Online Version
By Gay Reinartz

Shepherd readers are well acquainted with the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative, launched 10 years ago by the Milwaukee Zoological Society to study and help protect the elusive, endangered bonobo (human DNA is 98.4% identical to that of bonobos). The projects leader, Dr. Gay Reinartz, is currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to deliver supplies and collect more data on the great ape. Reinartz reports that they are seeing many bonobos at Etate, the projects research park. But, as this dispatch shows, she and her crew are also finding disturbing evidence of elephant poaching.

Today we walk in the footsteps of elephants, their tracks deep, flat depressions in the leaf litter of the forest floor. With room to spare, I can place both my feet in their circular form. Bunda tells us that elephants passed here yesterday after the rain. The elephants are headed toward the YengeRiver, where they go to bathe in one of the many tributaries. Elephants need water, and they congregate in swampy places called bais. Similar to bogs and thickly covered in sedges and aquatic grasses, bais are open expanses located within the rain forest, often on the edges of small rivers. We are following one of the many ancient elephant boulevardsdeeply worn, hard-packed paths cut through the forestthat will eventually lead to a bai on the Yenge. The SalongaNational Park once had thousands of elephants, but during the 1980s, fueled by the lucrative ivory trade, unrestrained poaching nearly exterminated the parks elephant population. Today, small pockets of elephants remain in this poorly protected wild-land, but ivory poaching continues. The park guards of the Salonga are ill-equipped to confront professional hunters that continue to infiltrate the park and slaughter the planets largest land mammal for its two teeth.

Bunda stops on the path and listens intently. We halt motionless behind him. To come unexpectedly upon a forest elephant could lead to an attack, but after a second Bunda resumes his whistling and saunters down the boulevard with Edmond, Wema, Patrick, Nathaniel and me following in single file. Up ahead I hear the tink tink of Eddys machete as he effortlessly cuts the branches and vines that block our path. Few patrols ever frequent this area, and this is among the reasons we are here: to scout out the terrain and the wildlife that exists here, as well as inform our guards about where to intensify their patrols. As we move closer to the Yenge, elephant signs increase in number as the animals journey toward water, but we find fewer bonobo nests as compared to the central lands between the two rivers. While bonobos are our primary target for conservation, elephants play a major role in maintaining the forest structure, clearing out the understory, moving the earth, fertilizing it and dispersing seeds. They are also what draw poachers to this area, being one of the most persecuted animals on Earth. Our ongoing reconnaissance between the Salonga and Yenge rivers will document the distribution of bonobos that are endemic to this region, the occurrence of elephants and the presence of hunters and their points of access into the park.

continued at…

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Interview of Sally Jewell Coxe, president and co-founder of the Washington DC based non-profit Bonobo Conservation Initiative,


The bonobo population has been threatened for years by poachers, loggers and miners. This mother and her newborn are safe, however. They live at Lola Ya

Caroline Casey interviews Sally Jewell Coxe 4/17/08


Protecting Bonobos!
Saving the World! “Waaah! Waaah!” (Bonobo greeting)

Caroline welcomes Sally Jewell Coxe, president and co-founder of the Washington DC based non-profit Bonobo Conservation Initiative, whose work in the war-torn Congo with conservationists, villagers, and President Joseph Kabila, is creating not only the nearly 12,000 square mile Sankuru preserve, working intimately to improve the lives of villagers, but creates a crucial protypical model of indigenous people and their environmental kin in a dynamic relationship of reciprocal blessing. The bonobos, human’s closest DNA kin, who resolve pretty much everything with eros (as opposed to violence) desperately need our help. “I believe if we save the bonobos, we save ourselves,” Andre’ Tusumba, conservationist leader in the effort to create the Bonobo Peace Village.
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Interview with Harry Prosen, M.D., Psychiatric Consultant Bonobo Species Survival Plan

Harry Prosen, M.D.

Prosen is a psychiatrist with impressive credentials. A professor of psychiatry who has worked in the field for over 40 years, including chairing two departments of psychiatry and serving as president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Prosen is also the psychiatric consultant to the Bonobo Species Survival Plan, and assists those working with one of the largest collections of captive bonobo primates in the world at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Godsil. You have spent the greater part of your long, rich life as a psychiatrist with patients, a teacher and administrator at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and, more recently as a rather renowned therapist/researcher into the “psyche” of a newly discovered primate species called “bonobos.” It is my understanding that the concept “empathy” is a central theme of all of this work. Might you share with us your understanding of the concept “empathy,” and explain its importance?

Prosen. And so I shall. It goes back a long way. Just a slight correction. I graduated from my psychiatric training in 1959 and spent 29 years at the University of Manitoba being Department Head from 1975 to 2004, and being somewhat nuts myself , at age 57, after years of pursuit by the Medical College of Wisconsin, accepted the Chair of Psychiatry here, which I sat in for another 17 years. So, I cannot leave our Canadian heritage, accent or belief systems out of this. But empathy knows no country, no species , is universal and has always been available . Some of the details of what little I know and it starts out with clinical work with human primates, but as I soon discovered after arriving here, it belonged to the Bonobos long before us.

Godsil. So what is “empathy” and why is it so important? What do the bonobos have to do with “empathy” and humans?

Prosen. I have long been involved with the concept of empathy, back to the late 1950`s, where I spent an intensive period of study of dynamic psychotherapy, with many outstanding psychotherapy supervisors, at the University of Chicago. The most impressive was in my mind Heinz Kohut, one of the major figures in the development of the concepts of Self Psychology. I was on a bursary which, as a condition had me return to the University of Manitoba and teach what I had learned, as best as I could, at the University of Manitoba, where I had been a medical student and psychiatric resident . And there I stayed, eventually becoming Head of that department. When I stepped down from that job after 29 years as a full time faculty member, I got a phone call from my former residency director at the University of Chicago, then here in Milwaukee, asking me to consider being a candidate for the Chair of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It took a year of persuasion and visits and in 1987 I made the move, building in effect a second department of psychiatry. I kept that job for 17 years and am still here.

Through all of this academic administrative stuff I maintained a large psychotherapy practice emphasizing life cycle aspects, inter generational matters , but always devoted to thinking and a little writing about Empathy. Empathy is an overburdened, overused concept, but to me and many others it means an emotional understanding which allows one as a therapist to resonate with ones patients in depth emotionally, so that it influences the therapeutic approach and alliance with the patient. It is not possible, unfortunately for all therapists to either believe in or have the ability to be truly empathic. To be an empathic therapist successfully also requires the ability to not absorb like a blotter all that one hears in a psychotherapy session. Some seed of it must be almost born in and nurtured, as Jeremy Griffith, who I would like to talk more about, my Australian author friend and mentor- and leader of developing and teaching a new way of living says must be watered by great nurturing and demonstrated from the beginning of life by a loving mother who is closely bonded with her child.( The same is true for Bonobos ). There is a great need for a therapist using this concept to be careful not to project their own issues on to the patient and thereby attempt to solve their own problems. I would like as I write, to develop these notions further, and emphasize further Jeremy’s ideas and writing. You already have quotes from his latest book The Great Exodus in the itemized margin of one of the web pages of the newsletter.

It was around 12 years or so ago when Gay Reinartz at the Milwaukee Zoological Society and the great Bonobo supporter and gifted researcher about Bonobos ( as you have all spelled out ) asked if a psychiatrist would be available to work with Barbara Bell on the problem of a very troubled and very ill bonobo named Brian. Thus began a new aspect of my work and devotion to Bonobos, other primates and working with Bonobos and the Bonobo Preservation Society which resulted in my meeting other Bonobo and primate people and receiving consultations on troubled Bonobos elsewhere. But what may be most important in this presentation which perhaps is only an introduction to many other thoughts and experiences about Bonobos is that I and others believe them to possibly be the most empathic ( with exceptions of course ) of all primates and as one studies evolution and as biological research is beginning to point out , the empathy of Homo Sapiens is likely a direct connection from what was always there and I am realizing its foundation in the Bonobos. Here again Jeremy Griffith in discussing the Human Condition focuses much attention on this. I have no educational background in primatology but now over many years have been fortunate to watch intently and follow the development of individual Bonobos, particularly enjoying the great and remarkable growth of Brian. Barbara Bell,a magnificent keeper and expert on Bonobos and I, and other keepers are also interested in the place of the alpha male in this matriarchal species. There is much more to say on any of these topics if it is of interest.

Conserving the Bonobo: a struggle between two worlds

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Pictures Capture Joyous Benefit for the Bonobos at the Venerable Coffee House

Fabulous Musicians

Elladia shows her Bonobo medical exam techniques

Guest and older male Bonobo

Dr. Gay and Bonobo Trainer Barbara Bell Monkeying Around with Technology

Dr Reinarts Speaks Passionately about working in Milwaukee, working in the Congo - BOTH!

Happy Moment, end of evening

Dr Gay and Dr. Harry Prosen Honored with Flowers

Here’s what people have to say about this event

Embedded Reporter had mega fun performing at the BIG BONOBO EXTRAVAGANZA. It was a thrill to see so many people in the audience; people of capacity and vision. It feels heartwarming to see Barbara Bell, Gay Reinartz, and Harry Prosen honored for their extraordinary work. -Ho

Dr. Gay Reiartz’ Thoughts on Bonobo Benefit at the Coffee House

For me, there has been NO event equal to the one last night at the CoffeeHouse! It was wonderful. It was a pleasure. It was cozy. It was fun. It was classy (according to my mother!). It was attended beyond expectations. The music lifted our spirits and added a pleasant aura and quality to our normal, otherwise rather dry venues. What a fine organization you have! The questions from the audience were intelligent, and the comments I received gave me hope that more people exist who care about what goes on beyond the limits of their daily lives. The attendees were among Milwaukee’s thinkers, writers and activists.

Unlike the other programs I’m invited to give each year, this one included colleagues Barbara Bell and Dr. Harry Prosen, whose first-hand experiences and expertise with bonobos at the Milwaukee County Zoo conveyed their apparent love and respect for our close cousins and the enormous challenges of caring for them in captivity. Combining their story with the Zoological Society’s efforts to conserve bonobos in their native Congo demonstrates that Milwaukee does more than any other city on earth to conserve this species at all levels. It is my fervent hope that this event will set an example and spawn further discussion about the holistic conservation program that Milwaukee gives to the world via the peace-loving bonobos. Toward that end you have helped us gain significant momentum in building public awareness about the need to improve captive habitat for the bonobos and to support conservation in Congo. On behalf of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, for your attention, friendship, your wish to contribute and your activism, please accept our highest praise and thanks. As for me, you have honored me and charged my batteries for another round!
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What Is a Bonobo and Why Should I Care

By Howard Lewis

What is a Bonobo, and Why Should I Care?
A bonobo primer for the rest of us
by Howard Lewis

Mickey Mouse is a rat that has been humanized. The more scientific term is anthropomorphism, which means morphed-into-a-human. Its a weird habit we have of assigning human characteristics to a pet, for example.

“Look at fluffy watching TV. He likes Elmo the best. Or even better, My dog is smarter than your teenager.

For some reason we tend to do this more readily with fuzzy animals than with a goldfish or a boa constrictor, but cold blooded animals are not immune either. Consider Finding Nemo.

We Americans spend billions on pets, pet supplies, stuffed toys that look like critters dressed up like people, and some of them even talk when squeezed.

Bonobos are the real deal. They share more than 98% of our DNA. They are so much like us that some of us actually cry when we meet them for the first time. I think its a powerful primal response to their like us-ness, or a tangible reminder that we are not alone.

Bonobos look like chimps but they stand-up straighter. Whereas chimps are mesomorphic like a football running back, for example, bonobos are ectomorphic like a long-distance runner or wide receiver. In the wild they spend a great deal of time hanging out in the jungle canopy, eighty-feet above the ground/swamp/most of us.

The nature of bonobo society speaks directly to the question of why should I care (about bonobos). They have a complex society that is maternal centric. The alpha female is the dominant personality in the family/clan. She gets to be the alpha female based upon her skill at and propensity to groom others. Imagine a society in which leadership is bestowed as a result of ones record of service to others.

Another part of it is they resolve disputes by using affection and sex. Admittedly this is a very simplistic explanation of a social order replete with complexity and nuance, but it is at the heart of why we need to save the bonobos from extinction. Loss of the bonobos in the wild would be tragic in that they represent a portal into understanding ourselves.

Bonobos are endangered in the wild primarily because of habitat loss and poaching, victims of ignorance and third world poverty. If we lose the worlds wild poplulations, we will no longer be able to study them in their natural environment. They are only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa, in one relatively small location in a very troubled part of the world.

Fortunately there are thriving zoological populations that serve in part as a hedge against extinction. But the management of captive populations presents challenges as well. Some challenges are daunting.

However a captive population does offer an opportunity to study Bonobos in more controlled conditions, where specific individuals and groups can be observed intensively over time, something that would be hard to do in the wild, if not impossible, dangling from a rope eighty-feet in the air, particularly if the clan decided to move to better trees on the other side of the hill.

But there is hope for the bonobos and hope for us as well. Lets not lose sight of the fact that we are interconnected.

Introducing Great Work of Dr. Gay Reinartz, Barbara Bell, and Dr. Harry Prosen

By Howard Lewis

But there is hope for the bonobos and hope for us as well. Lets not lose sight of the fact that we are interconnected. Milwaukee is home to several key players in mankinds effort to protect and learn from the bonobos. In alphabetical order they are:

Barbara Bell

As lead bonobo keeper at the Milwaukee County Zoo, Bell oversees the health and well-being of one of the worlds largest bonobo collections. It is a daunting challenge. Bonobos are very vulnerable to upper respiratory infections, says Bell. The harmless cold can quickly turn into pneumonia and bronchitis which in turn can be fatal.

Bell also points out that bonobos in captivity, particularly older males, are prone to cardio vascular diseases, just like humans. Says Bell, They just dont get enough exercise. We need greatly enlarged outdoor enclosures so that individuals and groups can romp yet remain sequestered. It can be unwise to allow some individuals to share a space. They have feuds and can hold grudges for extended periods of timejust like people.

Bell works with veterinary staff to be certain the Bonobos are immunized to as many diseases as possible. She also is in contact with other bonobo keepers around the world sharing best practices. Bell says that most are cooperative, but a few are less so, failing to disclose information related to health issues.

Her vision for the Milwaukee colony is to refine their environment to facilitate research, enhance exercise opportunities, and allow the public to witness the research activities without compromising the health of the bonobos.

Harry Prosen, M.D.

Prosen is a psychiatrist with impressive credentials. A professor of psychiatry who has worked in the field for over 40 years, including chairing two departments of psychiatry and serving as president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, Prosen is also the psychiatric consultant to the Bonobo Species Survival Plan, and assists those working with one of the largest collections of captive bonobo primates in the world at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Says Prosen, I have been continuously involved in the teaching of psychiatry and in clinical work with patients, with special emphasis on inter-generational issues in families, focusing particularly on empathy and empathic deficits. Much of this work originated in studying variations of the life-stages of humans, then developing an inter-generational approach to psychiatric treatment. Some of my early publications focused on nonverbal communication and also variations in facial features under different emotional circumstances.

This interest in empathy prepared me for my work with primates, in particular
bonobos who are thought to be the most empathic of all primates. It has allowed me
to participate in the work of a group of primate experts studying bonobo culture and
development and has also led to my receiving numerous consultations from the United States and other parts of the world about psychological and other problems in primates, especially bonobos, and other species. Recently, the rehabilitation of a very disturbed young bonobo named Brian by my colleagues and I generated substantial publicity.

As I have indicated, what I bring to the synthesis . . . presented, in particular the nurturing hypothesis for human origins and the instinct versus intellect explanation for our human condition, are my confirming experiences and studies in

Prosen and others recognize that the understanding of bonobos possesses the potential to inform us about interpersonal strategies that may benefit us. These are things were not likely to learn from a pet gerbil. This is not to disparage gerbils or us. It is just another way to point out that bonobos are special.

Gay Reinartz, Ph.D

Reinartz leads the charge to protect wild bonobos. Working with the Milwaukee Zoological Society, Reinartz travels regularly to the Congo in support of anti-poaching efforts and to establish and monitor the range, concentrations, and numbers of bonobos in the wild. This means slogging through hundreds of square kilometers of tropical forest looking for bonobo nesting areas and playgrounds.

They nest high up in the canopy, says Reinartz. We can see the nests. Occasionally well find bonobo play areas where theyve pulled branches off and basically trashed the area, trampling the grass and vegetation. But by the time we get there, they have gone. They are wary of poachers, so they leave.

Reinartz speaks of bonobo adults poached to eat and the orphaned young offered for sale. The number one threat is hunting, she says.


Benefit time for bonobo

[email protected]
Posted: Jan. 10, 2008

The Coffee House has a benefit Sunday night to raise money for bonobo protection and the Bonobo Species Preservation Society.

The Milwaukee County Zoo has the largest captive bonobo population outside Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the native habitat of this rare and intelligent primate. Bonobos are highly social and matriarchal, and are among the few creatures we know that exhibit empathy for other creatures. The prevailing construct in bonobo society is to remain peaceful and avoid conflict. Scientists have been studying bonobos intensely in recent years with the belief that humans have much to learn about the relationship strategies of this remarkable species that shares 98% of our DNA inheritance.

Bonobos in the wild are endangered by encroaching development of their habitat and ongoing political conflicts in Congo. Barbara Bell and Gay Reinartz of Milwaukee have sought help from villagers in Congo to protect bonobos.

Retired Journal Sentinel reporter Jo Sandin came out with a book last year about bonobos and the zoo’s efforts to protect them, “Bonobos: Encounters in Empathy.”

The Coffee House’s benefit includes live music from Embedded Reporter and a discussion with Harry Prosen, emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Medical Center of Wisconsin and an expert in empathy, who has studied the interpersonal behaviors of bonobos and other primates.

The benefit begins at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Coffee House, in the basement of Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church, 631 N. 19th St. Admission is by donation of at least $5. For information on the Coffee House, see www.the-coffee-house.com or call (414) 534–4612.


James J. Godsil
Friend of the Bonobos
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Join the Milwaukee County Zoological Society to Advance the Bonobos’ Cause

One of Milwaukee’s hidden treasures for all groups and all ages is our Zoological Society and County Zoo. Milwaukee and the 25,000,000 good souls of the Great Lakes bio-region only a day’s drive from our great Zoo and “Bonobo Village” have been inspired of late from all of the good news coming from Barbara Bell’s, Gay Reinartz’s, and Harry Prosen’s work with the bonobos’ vital cause.

We will be connecting with the Board and employees of the Zoological Society for the purpose of developing a membership drive in concert with bonobo benefits.

If you would like to be part of this partnership, please send an e-mail to [email protected]

Bonobo Benefit at Coffee House, Jan 13, 7 p.m., 19th & Wisconsin, east basement entrance to Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church

Music by Embedded Reporter: “Low Brow Music for Smart People”

Brief Powerful Presentations by Barbara Bell, Bonobo Trainer, and Dr. Gay Reinartz, Congo Bonobo Survival and Bio-Diversity Projects.

Bonobo Psychiatric Consultant, Dr. Harry Prosen, Plans to Be Present for Introductions and Informal Conversation During Breaks

Milwaukee is blessed with the two world renowned protectors, Barbara Bell and Dr. Gay Reinartz, of the endangered species and our primate cousins-the bonobos! We share over 98% of our DNA inheritance with the bonobos, who have never left the primordeal forests of Africa. Milwaukee County’s Zoo and the Milwaukee Zoological society have been supporting the work of our renowned pioneers for years. The bonobos in captivity and the bonobos in Africa are profiting greatly from these efforts, recently given widespread publicity in the “Shepherd Express” and elsewhere. See http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/Bonobos/HomePage.

There will be a benefit for the bonobos at the venerable Coffee House on January 13, 7 p.m., located in the basement of Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church, at 19th and Wisconsin. The benefit will feature the music of Howard Lewis’ “Embedded Reporter” and possibly Kt Rusch’s “Universal Love.” See http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/EmbeddedReporter/HomePage and http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/KtRusch/HomePage .

Donations of $5 and up will win an evening of excellent music, information about the bonobos(including a copy of the “Shepherd” cover story, to be a collectors item), and encounters with good people.

We are looking for individuals and organizations to join in the support of this event and the bonobos project in general. Sponsoring organizations and individuals will be given on-line recognition at the bonobos web site and become part of a network making history in the vital area of bonobos survival and bio-diversity organizing. Send an e-mail to [email protected] if you would like to join in!

Bonobos are social beings who enjoy one another.

She is alpha because she has groomed the best and the most.
She can best mediate “contradictions” among the monkeys.
She carries herself with a confidence and poise that wins respect.
A nod from her can spring a group of sisters into action,
In the face of an obnoxious bonobo, fancy on the outside,
But lacking interior grace.

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All 5 Shepherd Links for Congo Reports

A quick recap for those who missed them the first time around, here are the links from earliest, to most recent.





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Dispatches from the Congo November 29, 2007

by Gay Reinartz, of the Milwaukee Zoological Society

Nov. 11–14: Our lovely Etate is mostly underwater. Since the night of our arrival, the Salonga River laps the walls of the thatch buildings where we normally reside. Our days are occupied with finding places to store food (in Bunda’s bedroom), fragile electrical equipment (on high shelves in the dormitory) and ourselves. We share the guards’ kitchen and have meals in the paiotte (gazebo). At night Patrick, Mira and I sleep on a slightly pitched bamboo shelf in the storage depot. We string up mosquito nets, lay out air mattresses, and try to lie still since the bamboo and nylon air mattresses defy friction. (Twice I see Mira half asleep struggling to conquer his air mattress as it escapes beneath his slight form.) The other men pitch their tents in the saturated sponge of the depot’s earth floor. Digging trenches and redirecting the water that continues to fall on us, we organize our camp.

The men place little sticks at the water’s edge to determine the rate of ebb or flow. The water level does not change with the rain at Etate, but with the weather and subsequent drainage upriver. I study the little schools of fish at the doorstep of the dorm. A Muscovy duck flaps his wings with a flourish and navigates around the yard with an air of superioritythe only one delighted by our situation.

Nov. 15: Today we head into the forest to look for bonobos near the Etate camp. Decked out in faded, stained field clothes and backpacks containing research materials, we follow Edmond, cradling his unsheathed machete in the crook of his arm. The first thing we do is plunge hip-deep into water the color of clear tea and wade in and out of small streams and inundated low ground. (Etate is not on terra firma. While situated on higher ground than most of the fishing camps we passed on our voyage, the camp sits on a shelf of sand in the Salonga floodplain in the seasonally inundated forest.) The forest is thick with vines and water-loving trees that support themselves with buttress rootsroots that come off the trunk several feet above the ground. In drier parts, the ground is a massive woven mat of tiny roots interlaced from tree to tree. The path winds through ancient layers of green hardly touched by the sun, but I can’t look because I need my full concentration to watch my feet. This is not a well-maintained trail in a typical national park: We climb over and under logs, stepping high to avoid catching a foot in a root trap. I watch where Eddy steps and try to follow as quickly as I can to cover ground. He knows my speed and measures his gait accordingly; if I fall, he listens, but seldom does he look back unless I don’t move. (For the men it’s a source of embarrassment to fall, and politely they try not to notice. For me, as long as I can get up, it’s no big deal.)

We reach terra firma after a 3-kilometer march. The transition from low to high ground is only a couple of meters, but immediately the forest changes, albeit subtly to the unaccustomed eye. The canopy opens slightly, letting in more sun, and there is a faint smell of garlic from the large Scorodophloeus zenkeri, a tree characteristic of the terra firma forests and favored by the bonobos (for food and nest sites). An herbaceous plant with jointed winding stems and large leaves grows luxuriantly and forms a thick jungle over the forest floor. Bonobos thrive on this plant at certain times of the year when there is a scarcity of fruit. Given its presence, we immediately look for signs where the bonobos may have snacked on the stems and young shoots of this plant. Almost immediately we find bonobo picnic sites and carefully record these signs on our data sheets. We already know that Etate camp has a substantial bonobo population, about 1.8 adults per square kilometer area, but we revisit the population each year at least once to monitor possible changes. Furthermore, we use this time for training the Etate guards: All of them want to learn how to use a GPS unita magic little machine that tells them exactly where they are and where to go. During a practice session, Wema’s hands tremble when I show him which button to push to mark our path. “Calme, Wema. The best GPS unit is in your head already.” No one knows these forests as well as the guards Edmond, Nduzo and Bunda.

Within 100 meters, we begin to spot bonobo nests, tightly woven platforms of bent leafy twigs in the tops of trees. Every heart is lightened, and Mira’s enthusiasm is bongo-bongo-bongo. We count 22 nests in three hours.

The claim stands among some conservationists that there is no conservation ethic or will among the Congolese, that animals are viewed as objects for human use. While that may be in part true for politicians on the one hand or people who hunt for their food on the other, how do you explain the usual awe among the men when we sight bonobos or their passage? Lieutenants, river pilots, it doesn’t matterI’ve seen all types swallow hard when confronted the first time with the living beast. Is it just the emotional crescendo to the arduous prelude of our repeated and often unsuccessful missions? (Maybe they’re moved to tears of joy just to get out of our depressing camp for a while!) Yet, it’s also hard to imagine that this is just a job for someone like Bunda, a man who in his life as a park guard has arrested more armed poachers than he can rememberfor $40 a month, a paltry sum even for Congo incomes.

In addition to bonobo nests, we find the dung of a leopard that has eaten a potamochere, a red river hog (judging from the bones in the dung), the hole of a giant anteater, footprints of an elephant (a new and rare finding this close to camp!) and a live honey badger (an omnivorous and aggressive badger-like animal that stands its ground against a leopard).

The sunlight slants through the chasms in the canopy, signaling that dusk is only one hour away. Walking at night in the forest is asking for an accident. We head back at a clip that sets me to cursing all the pizzas and Snickers bars that I’ve eaten while away and how I ignored my gym membership. We arrive the way we came, wading through water up to the camp. Bobo has prepared a meal of beans, rice and smoked fishour standard. I head out to my bathhouse, a little hut, 4 feet square, where a bucket of cool bath water waits. As I pass, I see green clumps of grass growing in the sandy soil. I have passed this way a hundred times, but only now do I see it: grass planted in letters. It spells DR GEY. Bunda must have put this here. Etate is not a paradise; it’s a soap opera like the rest of the world. There are times when I could kill everyone at Etate just with the steam from my frustration at their carelessness. Yet, here we are, affectionately yours, DR GEY.

Nov. 17: Find 13 bonobo nests.

Nov. 18: Patrick finds 42 bonobo nests on Transect 1 but had to stop before finishing since it was getting dark! Gay stays in camp to recover from a coldbibangabanga!! Sissy!!

Nov. 19–20: We have formal GPS training in camp and prepare logistics for our next objective: to leave Etate for a patrol post about 10 hours awaycalled Ika. Here we will spend a week surveying bonobos, elephants and poachers. Our ultimate goal is to connect all the patrol posts along the Salonga in a coordinated effort to monitor and protect the bonobo population that appears to be continuous from Etate to Ika and beyond.

It rains for the fourth straight day.
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Dispatches from the Congo November 22, 2007

by Gay Reinartz, of the Milwaukee Zoological Society

Nov. 9, 2007, the Ruki and Busira rivers: Last night we were able to lie down for a bit of sleep in the bottom of the pirogue by stacking our chairs in the second pirogue and rolling out some grass mats. There is a 4-foot width in which two persons must cram their bodies, each taking turns to bend their knees. Patrick and I share a spot, Mira and Tsheko, head to toemy relatively clean stocking feet occasionally grazing Mira’s head. We are bundled up like arctic explorers against the condensation that soaks every surface. Sardines have a better life. Bobo and Jeremy sleep in chairs as the din of the motor hums us to sleep. I read somewhere that life is just getting to know what you can tolerate.

At 4 a.m. Mira wakes us. He fears rain, and within 15 chaotic minutes we have subdued a large tarp in the wind and spread it over arched sticks like the bows of a covered wagon spanning the pirogue. Within this tube, I doze with my head in my lap to awake a few hours later to a glorious sunny day. We bundle up the tarp, and Vincent putt-putt-putts into a fishing camp. After a brief exchange with the families, we move into their space. Never once have we been turned away from a camp or treated as if we had no right to just walk in. It is expected that visitors appear from time to time, but very rarely are they white. Our appearance is a matter of unrestrained curiosity as all eyes take us infrom the shoes to the hat of the mondele. Without a long prelude, a woman shows me a path through the treesla toilette. Shyly she asks whether she should accompany me. I decline and walk down the trail into the forest.

To enter the forest is like walking into another room; there is no transition zone as it closes around and mutes the noises of the camp. It is dark and cool and damp and quiet, just a few feet from the swollen river’s edge. Roots the size of human legs run in a maze across the spongy path. I can’t see the forest for the trees. It is too thick, and the scale too large to grasp. I have to settle for a microview of only a few yards at a time.

After Bobo boils water for our coffee, we board the pirogue, grateful to leave the marangu (small black biting gnats that live close to the rivers). Mira gives my forest guide a small token of appreciation (1000FC = $2) for use of the facilities. Once onboard, we hand out Nescaf and dig into our final loaf of stale bread and avocados. It’s a bright and lovely morning, but already at 9 a.m. the sun is formidable. I pop up an umbrella, find my book and put on my snazzy new sunglasses from Walgreensglasses so large that they fit over my prescription pair. “Ooh, this is the life,” I say to Patrick. He answers, “Yes, another day at the beach!” We reach the Tshuapa River and the Salonga River junction by late afternoon, a point about halfway to Etate.

The waters continue to rise the further we go upriver. We pass inundated camps where families slosh around in their huts in water up to their knees. What will we find at Etate? Thus far no real rain; we are still dry even when the stars appear. We settle in for another night, stack chairs and make our lumpy nests.

Nov. 10, 2007: Another glorious day, the sun reflects hot off the water, and there is no breeze. Occasionally fishing and palm eagles soar overhead. We are headed south of the equator in what is known as the Cuvette Centrale, the Central Basin of the Congo River watershed. We steam up the Salonga River, a little lighter and faster now that we have consumed several barrels of gas, slicing through a towering corridor of forest that seems endless since leaving the outskirts of Mbandaka. Following the convolutions of the river, one minute we’re headed west, the next east, and then north. If we could go the straight line distance, we would be in the park headquarters of Watsi Kengo in three hours, but meandering will double our time. We cannot reach Etate until after dark.

With the rivers so high, most of the camps are abandoned, and we cannot make our usual pit stop. Finally Vincent spots a camp where a family of fishermen stands on what appears to be terra firma. They motion us in and greet us waving panniers of smoked fish for sale. I realize I know them from former trips. (Last year I cleaned the infected finger of a man here who had stabbed himself with a fishhook.) As we approach the camp, however, the ground they stand on is all there is

News from Congo is usually bleak: war, rape, genocide. Congo has no monopoly on human atrocities stemming from war. As many people here, Mira rarely reminisces about the war, the brutality he endured, and never with self-pity. He and the fishermen, with their simple acts of kindness and self-sacrifice, prove violence to be the anomaly that it is. It would take the unimaginable to transform their good nature.

We reach Etate at 7 p.m., after dark. Floodwaters are past our kitchen, the floors of the dormitory are mud. No tents in there tonight. We make a bed where we can: Patrick, Mira and I on bamboo shelves in the storage depot. It could be worse

Bunda, Chef de Etate, says just before going off to bed: “Mama (Mme. Gay), there are many nests of bonobos now in the forest!” Beaucoup!
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Congo Creates Massive Reserve to Protect Close Human Cousin

November 20, 2007 NYTimes

Congo has announced the establishment of a rain-forest preserve intended to shield the bonobo, one of human beings’ two closest ape relations, from wildlife poachers and deforestation.

The Sankuru Nature Reserve at 11,803 square miles, it is larger than the state of Massachusetts is being created through a partnership involving American and Congolese conservation groups and government agencies.

Bonobos are closely related to both chimpanzees and humans, but do not appear to share the bellicose tendencies of their better-known kin. They are found only in the Congo basin south of the Congo River, and are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union.

Their numbers are thought to have declined substantially after many years of rising pressure from poachers harvesting the region’s wildlife to supply the trade in bush meat. Congolese conservationists have been working with residents of the region to curtail killing of the apes, whose flesh and bones, according to lore, strengthen children.

Over all, the rain forests in the region remain largely untouched, particularly compared with areas farther east, conservationists said.
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Dispatches from the Congo November 15, 2007

By Gay Reinartz, of the Milwaukee Zoological Society’s bonobo conservation effort

For the past decade, the Milwaukee Zoological Society’s Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative has been dedicated to studying and protecting the elusive bonobo. Its director, Gay Reinartz, is now in Congo and making her way to the program’s research station in Salonga National Park, despite continued unrest and fighting in the country. We will publish her dispatches as she studies these endangered apes during the next few months. For more dispatches, go to www.shepherd-express.com.

Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007: Mbandaka is a quaint and friendly town, once a colonial jewel, judging from the tree-lined streets and ruins of impressive houses. Depending on whom you ask, the town’s size is between 30,000 and 300,000 people. It is the capital of the Province de l’Equateur.

Because it’s Sunday, we get a reprieve from the endless preparations and planning. We head to a football (soccer) matchthe championship for Equateur: Mbandaka vs. Bumba!

The match is held in a large field surrounded by a block wall. A grandstand holds only a hundredth of those in attendance, so we sit on a rock on the sidelines with the rest of the crowd and watch through the legs of riot police. It’s worth every minuteclear day (for a change), with so much excitement. Running back and forth over an uneven field, the teams stay tied the whole game; no one scores. All the while, the crowd is relatively calm and respectful, but the presence of police portends other possibilities. Then suddenly behind us, there is a commotion, a wave of pushing and yelling. The police run over. It’s just a snake, a skinny harmless-looking thing. Once the police dispatch it and restore calm, everyone has a good laugh. Oh, but Mbandaka loses [the game] in a shootout!

As we walk the 2 miles back into town, the Bumba victory parade passes by, waving palm fronds and shouting: “Mbika! Mbika! Mbika!” Symbolizing victory, Mbika is a fruit with many layers surrounding a pocket of seedsthe final prize.

Monday, Nov. 5-Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007: We’re like chickens, everybody running around in different directions. The water at Etate, our research station in the Salonga National Park, is still rising, and we need to make tracks as fast as possible. Our goal is to leave early Thursday morning. The sky is, on and off, an ominous lead color, but at least it’s cool.

Despite the urgency, we observe protocol and meet with provincial dignitaries such as the governor of the Equateur to inform him of our mission to the park. We spend the days buying the rest of our supplies, double-checking inventories, packing and repacking, and finalizing the travel documents that authorize marine travel into the interior. Vincent and Redo lash two pirogues together and load 26 barrels of fuel on board the pirogue. Most of this supply will stock the mobile anti-poaching unit at the park headquarters, Watsi Kengo.

Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007: Marie Vincent starts at 7:30 a.m. to prepare a picnic for our nine-member team to eat in route. [Our team consists of] the two river pilots, Vincent and Redo, the chef d’antenne, Mira, the agronomist (consultant for the agricultural project), Dieudonne, the camp cook, Bobo, two security guards, Lts. Jeremy and Tshesko, Patrick and I. We push to leave by 10:30 a.m. Patrick and I rapidly fill large plastic barrels that hold our research supplies and things we will give to the guards: shoes, clothes, toothpaste, tins of milk, mosquito nets, machetes. Down the muddy path leading from our office to the port, the porters carry heavy sacks of manioc flour, rice, corn meal, salt, barrels and trunks on their heads.

Ever since we flipped over last year, I’m a bit nervous about how the pirogues are balanced, so I walk down to check on progress. With this much fuel, there are only 3 inches of the small pirogue left above the water line, and yesterday there were white caps on the river. Redo and Vincent decide to shift a few barrels forward and, luckily without much work, we gain another 5 inches. We’re good to go.

At 4:30 p.m. (a little later than planned), Vincent carefully navigates us out into the fast current of the Congo as onlookers wave “bon voyage!” Sitting in chairs in the front, we settle back to round the peninsula and port of Mbandaka. The edges of the river, where hulks of rusted barges litter the port, are extensions of markets thronged with people: people bathe, women wash their babies and clothes, a cyclist rinses down his bike and a barge, carrying hundreds of disregarded passengers living on deck, waits parked at the port until its load is full enough to be profitable to move to market.

The GPS says that we’re pushing our heavy load 10 kilometers per hour against a current at least equal in speed. The sky is clear this evening, and the sunset is spectacular. Finally relaxed, gabbing away, we feast on chicken and ricesmothered in palm oil.

We veer eastward onto the more placid Ruki River. As night takes over, we pull on jackets against the chill of evaporation. The dark silhouette of the forest slides by, and over the din of the motors, cicada-like insects rasp out their trilling chorus into the night air. Along the riverbanks, the fires from fishing camps give out a friendly yet mysterious glow. I could never forget how beautiful this scene is, but it turns out that I had forgotten the jolt of realization: A million stars hang overhead in easy plucking distance!

We have paid our dues to get to this point. Weather and river permitting, we should be in Etate the day after tomorrow.
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Dispatches from the Congo November 08, 2007

By Gay Reinartz, of the Milwaukee Zoological Society’s bonobo conservation effort

For the past decade, the Milwaukee Zoological Society’s Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative has been dedicated to studying and protecting the elusive bonobo. Its director, Gay Reinartz, is now in Congo and making her way to the program’s research station in Salonga National Park, despite continued unrest and fighting in the country. We will publish her dispatches as she studies these endangered apes during the next few months. For more dispatches, go to www.shepherd-express.com.

Kinshasa, Friday, Nov. 2: It has been raining at least every other day. In a downpour, the streets of Kinshasa quickly fill up with murky water that hides massive potholes. Avenues become rivers a foot or more deep in places. Soaked pedestrians wade along the streets, gingerly picking their way. There is no sidewalk. The car in front of us leaves a wake. Only an experienced driver like Ntuntani, who has memorized the pattern of holes, can crawl around the worst parts without bottoming out. Ntuntani drives Patrick and me to the airline depot for “early check-in,” where passengers get their boarding pass and drop off their luggage the day before the flight leaves.

Our project would not exist without Ntuntani. He has been our mainstay and guardian for eight years. As well as being our chauffeur, he oversees our office, prepares logistics and assists with nearly every aspect of administration. Today, he navigates confidently, giggling at his own jokes, while the wipers struggle across the windshieldwith no particular rhythm or synchrony.

The depot is located down a crowded side street choked with people and cars. We pull up to the depot, and immediately guys swarm around our car where the mondele (white persons) sit, spotting the opportunity for tips. Even if you are Superman, you are obliged to hire porters to carry your bags; it’s somebody’s job. Even though there are three of us and three bags, I hire two grateful porters out of the crowd, who make a big show of the work They hustle our bags inside, weaving through the chaos of travelers, and then start to crisscross our bags in brown packing tape, “scotch.” Ignoring my protest, they explain: “Madame, for reasons of security!” (The bags, which are locked, have to stay in the depot overnight.) I should be reassured that packing tape will deter thieves?

We wade through the press of people, all taping their bags, to the counter to hand in our tickets. A man weighs the bags and directs us to “Immigration.” Everyone with a foreign passport must go through a formal immigration procedure every time they travel outside Kinshasa, as if they were going to a different country. The immigration officials painstakingly check visas and hand copy all the information in our passport into an ancient ledger. We also present our Ordre de Mission, an official document from the government saying that Patrick and I are authorized to travel to Mbandaka, then to Salonga National Park, to perform functions related to the conservation of the bonobo. The word bonobo starts them chatting with us about their native village where bonobos lived in the past. (More and more people are coming to know what a bonobo is; 10 years ago, this would not have been the case, even in Congo. The word “bonobo” is not African in origin, and the word has no traditional meaning.)

While we wait, more people come in with their luggage, everything from rolling suitcases to giant woven sacks of sweet potatoes. I watch a mama trying to tape shut a plastic cooler full of wet fish destined for the flight. (I’m reminded of a check-in in Mbandaka where a live goat lay on its side completely immobilized and stitched up in a raffia sack with only its head sticking outthe stitching following the contours of its body and legs.) There is a profound innocence about this scene. I think how the country is destined to change, gradually or abruptly, for better or worse; the simple innocence of the people is bound to vanish. I doubt whether the loss of that innocence will be worth the price of a pristine waiting room.

An hour later, we receive our passports. We will have to repeat the immigration process again tomorrow before boarding at the main airport.

Saturday, Nov. 3: We leave Kinshasa on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning at 6 a.m. I hug Ntuntani goodbye, leaving last-minute instructions. I am too tired to notice anything. By 11 we land in Mbandaka, and waiting on the tarmac by the door of the jetliner is sweet Mira, our Mbandaka-based chef antenne, smiling from ear to ear. When he hugs me, it’s a sweet homecoming. Mira’s little daughter quietly takes my hand. Together we walk across the tarmac to? Immigration!
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Bonobos, Left & Right

Primate Politics Heats Up Again as Liberals & Conservatives Spindoctor Science

by Frans de Waal

Imagine that youre a writer and you have decided to offer your readers a first-hand account of the politically correct primate, the idol of the left, known for its gay relations, female supremacy, and pacific life-style. Your focus is the bonobo: a relative of the chimpanzee, and genetically equally close to us as the chimpanzee. You go all the way to a place called the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see these darling apes frolic in their natural habitat, hoping to come back with new and exciting material.

Alas, you barely get to see any bonobos. You watch a few of them quietly sitting in the trees, eating nuts. Thats all. This is what happened to Ian Parker, who nevertheless managed to write thirteen pages of carefully crafted prose as a far-flung correspondent for The New Yorker. We learn about the hot, soupy air, the rainstorms, the mud streams, the sound of falling fruit shells, and his German host, Gottfried Hohmann, who is described as rather unsympathetic.1

The main message of Parkers piece could of course have been that fieldwork is no picnic, but instead he went for profound revelation: bonobos are not nearly as nice and sexual as they have been made out to be. Given that the bonobos reputation has been a thorn in the side of homophobes as well as Hobbesians, the right-wing media jumped with delight. The bonobo myth could finally be put to rest. Parkers piece was gleefully picked up by The Wall Street Journal and Dinesh DSouza (yes, the same one who blamed 9/11 on the left), who accused liberals of having fashioned the bonobo into their mascot. DSouza urged them to stick with the donkey.2

This might all have been amusing if it werent for the fact that these are not just political skirmishes. At issue is what we know. Parker presented his trip as a fact-finding mission that had unearthed revolutionary new insights. His message was that bonobos are killer apes, just like their cousins, the chimpanzees. The animal kingdom remained red in tooth and claw, as it ought to be.

Yet, the most striking cases of bonobo aggression that he reported have been known for decades, and actually didnt come from the natural habitat, even less from first-hand observation by our brave explorer. A typical description was given by Jeroen Stevens, a Flemish biologist, of a gang of five bonobos assaulting a single victim at Apenheul Zoo, in the Netherlands. They were gnawing on his toes. Id already seen bonobos with digits missing, but Id thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth.1

Many such cases have been documented at zoos over the years, and have actually led to changes in policies of how to keep bonobos. This is why I warned in Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape not to romanticize the species: All animals are competitive by nature and cooperative only under specific circumstances.3

The second part of Parkers revisionist attempt was the suggestion that bonobo sexual tendencies have been grossly exaggerated. Since most observations of bonobo sex come from zoos, they can be safely ignored, we were told, on the assumption that captivity distorts behavior. The problem is, of course, the incongruity of considering zoo observations valid in relation to aggression, yet worthless in relation to sex. One either accepts both or rejects both.

Perhaps it is time to go over the evidence once again and see if bonobos are as special as they have been made out to be. Unfortunately, the evidence that we have is relatively old. The impression that there are new discoveries is merely a product of creative writing. The DRC is only now emerging from a bloody civil war that has kept field workers away. Knowledge about bonobos in their natural habitat has been at a virtual standstill for about a decade.

But there exists excellent field data from before this time. Combined with reports from captive apes, these provide a rather coherent picture. The most important fact, which has remained unchanged over the last three decades of bonobo research, is that there exist no confirmed reports of lethal aggression, neither from the field nor from captivity. For chimpanzees, in contrast, we have dozens of cases of adult males killing other males, of males killing infants, of females killing infants, and so on. This is in the wild. In captivity, I myself documented how two male chimpanzees brutally mutilated a third, castrating him in the process, which led to his death.4 There is absolutely no dearth of such information on chimpanzees, which contrasts greatly with the zero incidence in bonobos.

Reviewing chimpanzee violence in Demonic Males, Richard Wrangham went on to draw the following comparison with the gentle ape, the bonobo: we can think of them as chimpanzees with a threefold path to peace. They have reduced the level of violence in relations between the sexes, in relations among males, and in relations between communities.5

None of this is to say that bonobos live in a fairy tale. When first writing about their behavior, I spoke of sex for peace precisely because bonobos had plenty of conflicts. There would obviously be no need for peacemaking if they lived in perfect harmony. Sexual conflict resolution is typical of females, but also occurs among males: Vernon regularly chased Kalind into the dry moat After such incidents the two males had almost ten times as many intensive contacts as was normal for them. Vernon would rub his scrotum against Kalinds buttocks, or Kalind would present his penis for masturbation.6

It is entirely possible that one day we will discover serious, perhaps deadly aggression in this species, and it probably will be females collectively attacking a male, since this is the fiercest aggression seen at zoos (and a good argument against attributing female dominance to male chivalry). For now, however, bonobos offer the opposite picture. Whereas most observed chimpanzee killings occur during territorial disputes, bonobos engage in sex at their boundaries. They can be unfriendly to neighbors, but soon after a confrontation has begun, females have been seen rushing to the other side to copulate with males or mount other females. Since it is hard to have sex and wage war at the same time, the scene rapidly turns into socializing. It ends with adults from different groups grooming each other while their children play.

These reports go back to 1990, and come mainly from Takayoshi Kano, the Japanese scientist who worked the longest with wild bonobos.7,8 While writing Bonobo, I interviewed field workers, such as Kano and also Hohmann. Asking the latter how his bonobos react to another group, Hohmann replied: It starts out very tense, with shouting and chasing, but then they settle down and there is female-female and male-female sex between members of the two communities. Grooming may occur, but remains tense and nervous.9 This is not exactly the stuff expected of killer apes, although Hohmann did add that groups do not always mingle and that he never saw males from different groups groom.

Perhaps the bonobos peaceful image can be countered with descriptions of them catching and eating prey? Isnt this violent behavior? Not really: feeding has very little to do with aggression. Already in the 1960s, Konrad Lorenz explained the difference between a cat hissing at another cat and a cat stalking a mouse. The neural circuitry of the two patterns is different: the first expresses fear and aggression, the second is motivated by hunger. Thus, herbivores are not any less aggressive than carnivores as anyone who has been chased by a bull can attest. The fact that bonobos run after duikers and kill squirrels which has been seen many times is therefore best kept out of debates about aggression.

As for sex, I perceive the shyness of many scientists as a problem. It leads them to either ignore sexual behavior or call it something else. They will say that bonobos are very affectionate, when the apes in fact engage in behavior that, if shown in the human public sphere, would get you quickly arrested. Two females may be pressing vulvas and clitorises together, rapidly rubbing them sideways in a pattern known as genito-genital rubbing (or hoka-hoka), and Hohmann, who has seen this pattern many times, wonders: But does it have anything to do with sex? Probably not. Of course, they use the genitals, but is it erotic behavior or a greeting gesture that is completely detached from sexual behavior?1

Fortunately, a United States court settled this monumental issue in the Paula Jones case against President Bill Clinton. It clarified that the term sex includes any deliberate contact with the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks. In short, when bonobos contact each other with their genitals (and squeal and show other signs of apparent orgasm), any sex therapist will tell you that they are doing it.10

Bonobos do it a lot, and not just between male and female. Nothing has changed in this regard. The only disagreement arose when Craig Stanford compared existing data in wild chimpanzees and bonobos. Stanford is an American primatologist who has studied chimpanzees but not bonobos, which may explain why he considered only adult heterosexual relations when claiming similar sex rates for both species.11 Since bonobos have sex in virtually all partner combinations, they were seriously short-changed by these calculations.

How much bonobos differ from chimpanzees was highlighted by a recent experiment on cooperation. Brian Hare and co-workers presented apes with a platform that they could pull close by working together. When food was placed on the platform, the bonobos clearly outperformed the chimpanzees in getting a hold of it. The presence of food normally induces rivalry, but the bonobos engaged in sexual contact, played together, and happily shared the food side by side. The chimpanzees, in contrast, were unable to overcome their competition.12 For two species to react so differently to the same experimental set-up leaves little doubt about a temperamental difference.

In another illustration, at a forested sanctuary at Kinshasa it was recently decided to merge two groups of bonobos that had lived separately, just so as to induce some activity. No one would ever dream of doing this with chimpanzees as the only possible outcome would be a blood bath. The bonobos produced an orgy instead.

In short, so long as we call sex sex and focus on known levels of intraspecific (as opposed to interspecific) violence, there is absolutely no reason to drop the claim that bonobos are relatively peaceful, and that sexual behavior serves a wide range of non-reproductive functions, including greeting, conflict resolution, and food sharing.

I understand the frustration of field workers with the image of bonobos as angels of peace, which is not only one-dimensional, but incorrect. On the other hand, anyone who objects to the occasional hyperbole (such as chimpanzees are from Mars, bonobos are from Venus), should realize that no one would ever have heard of the species and no reporter would have considered them for a piece in The New Yorker if theyd been described as merely affectionate. Possibly, one or two decades from now a new image of the bonobo will emerge, one more complex than what we have today. This is already happening thanks to detailed studies of their socio-ecology, observations that nuance the dynamics of female dominance, and video-analyses of their natural communication. No doubt, the return of bonobo field workers to Africa will significantly add to our knowledge.

But whatever we find out, a Hobbesian make-over of the bonobo is not to be expected any time soon. I just cant see this ape go from being a gentle, sexy primate to a nasty, violent one. Japanese primatologist Takeshi Furuichi, perhaps the only scientist to have studied both chimpanzees and bonobos in the forest, said it best: With bonobos everything is peaceful. When I see bonobos they seem to be enjoying their lives.1

About the Author

Frans B. M. de Waal was trained as a zoologist and ethologist in the European tradition resulting in a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Utrecht, in 1977. In 1981, Dr. de Waal moved to the USA, first to Madison, Wisconsin, and now in a joint position in the Psychology Department of Emory University and at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, both in Atlanta. He is known for his popular books, such as Chimpanzee Politics (1982), Peacemaking Among Primates (1989, which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (1997), and his latest, Our Inner Ape (2006). His current interests include food-sharing, social reciprocity, and cultural transmission in primates as well as the origins of morality and justice in human society.
References & Notes

1. Parker, I. (July 30, 2007). Swingers. The New Yorker: 4861.
2. DSouza, D. (2007). Bonobo Promiscuity? Another Myth Bites the Dust. AOL Newsbloggers.
3. de Waal, F. B. M. (1997). Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape, with photographs by Frans Lanting. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p. 84.
4. de Waal, F. B. M. (1998 [1982]). Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes, Revised Edition. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
5. Wrangham, R. W., & Peterson, D. (1996). Demonic Males: Apes and the Evolution of Human Aggression. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 204.
6. de Waal, F. B. M. (1989). Peacemaking among Primates. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 215.
7. Idani, G. (1990). Relations between unit-groups of bonobos at Wamba: Encounters and temporary fusions. African Study Monographs 11: 153186.
8. Kano, T. (1992). The Last Ape: Pygmy Chimpanzee Behavior and Ecology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
9. de Waal, F. B. M. (1997), p. 81.
10. Block, S. (2007). Bonobo Bashing in the New Yorker. Counterpunch. http://www.counterpunch.org/block07252007.html
11. Stanford, C. B. (1998). The social behavior of chimpanzees and bonobos. Current Anthropology 39: 399407.
12. Hare, B., et al. (2007). Tolerance allows bonobos to outperform chimpanzees on a cooperative task. Current Biology 17: 15.
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The Sweet Politics of Savannah Baboons and Forest Bonobos

by Olde Godsil(first published in premier issue of “Nerve House”, available at Riverwest Co-op and many other places in the emerging Great Lakes culture)

Images from http://www.bio.davidson.edu
and http://williamcalvin.com/

If you are a Savannah Baboon who likes power,
Please know that winning power may take strength,
But keeping power involves other resources.

Social intelligence, which includes empathy, ranks high.
You must divine daily even hourly shifts in alliances.
The politics of coalition formation and dissolution,
Must come second nature to you.

Tolerance for the inescapable imbecility of your allies
Is critical, Baboon allies make mistakes.
Don’t cop attitudes.

Image courtesy of S.P. Henzi (De Hoop Baboon Project)

And detachment from the irritation of regular provocations
From your partners who enjoy a dance with Alpha Baboon,
Taking you right to the edge of anger, seemingly
For the fun of it.

Image courtesy of John H. Fields

Physical power means even less to the divine bonobos,
A matriarchal species where the females prevail
By virtue of their “sisterhood.”

Males derive their status from their mother’s rank.
The alpha bonobo, Queen Bonoba, never needed be the strongest,
But rather the kindest and the wisest.

She is alpha because she has groomed the best and the most.
She can best mediate “contradictions” among the monkeys.
She carries herself with a confidence and poise that wins respect.
A nod from her can spring a group of sisters into action,
In the face of an obnoxious bonobo, fancy on the outside,
But lacking interior grace.

Brief, solution focused cognitive therapy suggests the value of
Self-framing as an Alpha Bonobo or Savannah Baboon
To advance one’s hero quest and possibilities for bliss.

Milwaukee Zoo a World Resource Regarding Our Primate Cousins-the Bonobos

Urban Ecology Center Talk on the Glorious Bonobos, June 7, 7 p.m.


Bonobo Conservation Talk: The Fourth Great Ape-Rare and at Risk
For the past decade, Dr. Gay E. Reinartz has ventured into the heart of Africa, braving bugs, heat, and thick rain forest to help conserve and protect the bonobo, an endangered great ape. Hear the Zoological Society of Milwaukees conservation coordinator talk about her work-and see photos she took in the field-at a presentation called The 4th Great Ape-Rare and at Risk. This one-hour talk is on Thursday, June 7, at 7 p.m. at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place. It is open to adults and children ages 12 and older; admission is $5 (Urban Ecology Center members, free). A question-and-answer session will follow. Call (414) 964–8505 to register.

Dr. Reinartz will discuss her efforts to save the bonobos and other wildlife-and help the people who live near their habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Bonobos are rare great apes that share 98% of their genetic identity with humans and show empathy for other creatures. Yet they face threats of poaching and habitat destruction in the conflict-riddled Congo, the only place in the world where they are found in the wild. Dr. Reinartz and the Zoological Society have been working to survey the bonobo population and its habitat; develop anti-poaching measures; build schools and provide agricultural and literacy training to the Congolese; and hire Congolese as researchers and park wardens.

In addition to her efforts in Congo, where the Zoological Society has a research station in the worlds second largest rain forest, Dr. Reinartz is coordinator of the North American Bonobo Species Survival Plan for captive animals. The Milwaukee County Zoo has 20 of those bonobos, the worlds largest group in a zoo environment. Dr. Reinartzs work also was featured in the Zoological Societys just-published book Bonobos: Encounters in Empathy, written and donated to the Society by Jo Sandin. For more information about the Zoological Societys bonobo conservation program, visit www.zoosociety.org or call 414–258–2333.

For more information, contact:
Julia Kolker at (414) 258–2333
May 30, 2007

The Zoological Society of Milwaukees 2007 book-Bonobos: “Encounters in Empathy”


Book Tells of Ape Empathy & Wisconsin Effort to Save a Kindred Spirit

Thought you knew all the great apes? Heres one that many people dont know: the bonobo. Yet these rare kindred spirits share 98% of their genetic identity with humans and show empathy for other creatures. The Zoological Society of Milwaukees 2007 book Bonobos: Encounters in Empathy takes you into an ape group ruled by females who seem to believe in making love, not war. These highly endangered apes exist in the wild in only one African country. Yet you can visit the zoo worlds largest group of bonobos right here in Wisconsin, at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Discover why these intelligent animals are worth saving and how you can help. Jo Sandin, a longtime journalist now retired, wrote the book and donated it to the Zoological Society. Book proceeds benefit the Zoos bonobos and the Zoological Societys conservation efforts.

Through fascinating animal stories, youll meet the Milwaukee County Zoos 20 bonobos and their dynamic matriarch, Maringa. Youll be introduced to Barbara Bell, an empathetic zookeeper who found a way to get the bonobos to help in their own health care and have fun at the same time. And youll take a dugout-canoe trip with Dr. Gay E. Reinartz, the Zoological Societys conservation coordinator, into a remote Zoological Society research station in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Learn about this Wisconsin non-profit organizations extraordinary efforts to save the bonobo-and to help the people who live near bonobo habitat. The Zoological Society of Milwaukee has studied bonobos in the wild to find ways to protect them, developed anti-poaching measures, built schools, provided literacy and agricultural training, and hired and trained Congolese to staff the research station and conduct patrols.

The 106-page, soft-cover book features more than 100 color and black-and-white photos. You can order the book for $22 (plus tax) online at www.zoosociety.org or by phone at (414) 258–2333. The same Web site also offers more information about bonobo-conservation efforts.

Scientific Literature on Bonobos

Advise From a Channeled Bonobo Alpha Queen

Dear Queen Bonoba,

I am bored near to death with my job and would like to start my own business. I am afraid, however, that I might wind up losing money and going into debt if I leave my boring but fairly secure job.

What would you do?


Dear Yearning,

I wonder if you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Might you be able to remain at your secure but boring job, while at the same time spending an extra 10 to 30 hours per week experimenting with a small business of your own?

It would also help for you to stretch your mind in regards to the issue of time. Give your business ambitions time to gell. Don’t assume the first thing you launch will be a success or even what you really want to do. Take an inventory of your resources: your skills, your support group, what kind of work for the market place sparks your passion.

Are any of your close friends or family members in small businesses in fields that interest you? Are there any mentors out there who might let you earn while you learn and eventually pass along their business to you.

The simpler your life style as a consumer the easier it will be to sustain yourself while trying to establish your business. It is very, very important to “walk lightly on Mother Earth” when experimenting with different market offerings. Spend less, work better and smarter. Don’t assume overnight success. Pay attention to small improvements in your daily efforts. Refinments “at the edges.”

Talk with as many possible allies and partners as you possibly can. You will need lots of financial, social, and moral support from those who support your hero quest. To start and maintain your own business, you will have to be something of a hero. You will have to mother your business. You will have to father your business.

There may be times when you have to eat, drink, and breath your business. If you discover a business that feels like a calling, one in which you find as much fun as your current leisure pursuits, you have a much better chance of success.

Although partners bring their own sets of problems, they also can have resources and interests that you lack. If you find a partner who compliments your interests and abilities, and with whom you can work day in day out, year in year out, you’ll have more chance to escape your business when you need a break.

This is a vast subject area that I am happy to continue discussing.

God bless,

Queen Bonoba

Devestated re Teen Daughter’s Issues

Too Much Job

Advice Re Move to New City

Noosphere Exchanges re the Bonobos

Bonobo Species Survival Plan

Since 1988 the Zoological Society of Milwaukee (ZSM) has been the headquarters of the Bonobo Species Survival Plan. All Species Survival Plans are under the auspices of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Species Survival Plan (SSP) is a management program that strives to maintain healthy self-sustaining captive populations of endangered species in zoological facilities throughout North America. The Bonobo SSP contributes to bonobo conservation through research, public education, and field projects, and provides a link between zoos and conservation of wild populations.

All institutions housing bonobos in North America are members of the Bonobo SSP. Bonobos are not commonly found in zoos; as of May 2004, 79 bonobos live in ten zoological institutions in the U.S. and Mexico. In contrast, there are about 350 chimpanzees, 300 western lowland gorillas, and 250 orangutans in U.S. zoos. Because of the small size of the captive bonobo population, intensive management is required to preserve genetic diversity, and achieve demographic stability to ensure a self-sustaining captive population. Furthermore, these management strategies must be conducted on a worldwide basis in order to attain the minimum viable population size required for long-term survival. Toward this end, the Bonobo SSP works in collaboration with our European counterpart, the Bonobo European Endangered Species Program (EEP). Currently, the Bonobo SSP and EEP are developing a joint plan, Bonobo (Pan paniscus) Master Plan 2002: Recommendations for the Global Captive Population. The Master Plan provides breeding and management recommendations for all individual bonobos. Together, the two management groups also published a husbandry manual entitled The Care and Management of Bonobos in Captive Environments. By routinely updating the husbandry manual and supporting behavioral research, the Bonobo SSP and EEP address problems concerning social and reproductive behavior, social development, environmental health, and husbandry standards. Breeding recommendations take into account the social needs of individuals in an effort to preserve normal behavior of the species in captivity.

Each SSP is required to develop a three-year action plan that outlines the program’s goals and objectives. SSPs are encouraged to adopt educational projects and field activities in the country of origin to create a direct connection between zoos and field efforts. On behalf of the Bonobo SSP, the Zoological Society of Milwaukee has developed a field program called the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative. The bonobo is an important flagship species for conservation of the highly diverse ecosystem of the Congo Basin. Preservation of bonobo habitat means protection of a broad range of rare, endemic or threatened species sharing this habitat.

click here to donate

Bonobo Survival Project Gathers at the Riverwest Co-op, July 2 and July 8

Letter to the “Shepherd” Editor in Thanks for Bonobo Cover Story

Dear Editor,

What a great gift you have given your Milwuakee readers in Lisa Kaiser’s outstanding cover story on the Bonobos!


Could the City or County of Milwaukee or some of our suburban communities become a “sister city” or partner with the people of the Salonga National Park region, advancing our Zoological Society’s Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative(BCBI)? Perhaps some of our enterprising Milwaukee companies, such as our Fortune 500 headquarters, or our K-12 schools, could adopt the BCBI.

Dr. Gay Reinartz educates us to the relationship between the well-being of the people of this region and the endangered species called Bonobos. In response, the BCBI has helped organize a farm co-op, a literacy program, a school, ecological research, and anti-poaching guard teams.

A sister city relationship or corporate or school partnership could start by simply raising funds to support a few lap tops and the training costs to communicate with those who control the fate of the bonobos, the people of the Congo and Salonga National Park region.

This would enable Milwaukee students and social enterprisers to build bridges across oceans and national borders, to break down the barriers between “us and them,” by focusing on what must be done to help the bonobos and their human “partners” survive.

Imagine Milwaukee school children, employees, and elders playing a part to save the species closest to ourselves and forging bonds across civilizations.

In helping the bonobos survive we help ourselves survive. We are all in this boat together.

Viva, the bonobos! Viva, the humans!

James J. Godsil, Milwaukee Friends of the Bonobo

P.S. Send an e-mail to [email protected] to learn how you can help the bonobos and the BCBI. Your ideas are welcome!
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”New Yorker” Long Essay on the Bonobos

Stirring Heated Political Debates on Human Nature, War, Gender, and Social Relations

“Who could have imagined a close relative of ours in which female alliances intimidate males, sexual behavior is as rich as ours, different groups do not fight but mingle, mothers take on a central role, and the greatest intellectual achievement is not tool use but sensitivity to others?”

The appeal of de Waal’s vision is obvious. Where, at the end of the twentieth century, could an optimist turn for reassurance about the foundations of human nature? The sixties were over. Goodall’s chimpanzees had gone to war. Scholars such as Lawrence Keeley, the author of “War Before Civilization” (1996), were excavating the role of warfare in our prehistoric past. And, as Wrangham and Peterson noted in “Demonic Males,” various nonindustrialized societies that were once seen as intrinsically peaceful had come to disappoint. Margaret Mead’s 1928 account of a South Pacific idyll, “Coming of Age in Samoa,” had been largely debunked by Derek Freeman, in 1983. The people identified as “the Gentle Tasaday”the Philippine forest-dwellers made famous, in part, by Charles Lindberghhad been redrawn as a small, odd community rather than as an isolated ancient tribe whose mores were illustrative. “The Harmless People,” as Elizabeth Marshall Thomas referred to the hunter-gatherers she studied in southern Africa, had turned out to have a murder rate higher than any American city. Although the picture was by no means accepted universally, it had become possible to see a clear line of thuggery from ape ancestry to human prehistory and on to Srebrenica. But, if de Waal’s findings were true, there was at least a hint of respite from the idea of ineluctable human aggression. If chimpanzees are from Hobbes, bonobos must be from Rousseau.

De Waal went on, “People have taken off with the word ‘bonobo,’ and that’s fine with me”although he acknowledged that the identification has sometimes been excessive. “Those who learn about bonobos fall too much in love, like in the gay or feminist community. All of a sudden, here we have a politically correct primate, at which point I have to get into the opposite role, and calm them down: bonobos are not always nice to each other.”

“It was so easy for Frans to charm everyone,” Hohmann said of de Waal one afternoon. “He had the big stories. We don’t have the big stories. Often, we have to say, ‘No, bonobos can be terribly boring. Watch a bonobo and there are days when you don’t see anythingjust sleeping and eating and defecating. There’s no sex, there’s no food-sharing.’ “ During our first days in camp, the bonobos had been elusive. “Right now, bonobos are not vocalizing,” Hohmann said. “They’re just there. And if you go to a zoo, if you give them some food, there’s a frenzy. It’s so different.”

Because of Hohmann’s disdain for premature theories, and his data-collecting earnestness, it had sometimes been possible to forget that he is still driving toward an eventual glimpse of the big pictureand that this picture includes human beings. Humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos share a common ancestor. Was this creature bonobo-like, as Hohmann suspects? Did the ancestral forest environment select for male docility, and did Homo and the chimpanzee then both dump that behavior, independently, as they evolved in less bountiful environments? The modern bonobo holds the answer, Hohmann said; in time, its behavior will start to illuminate such characteristics as relationships between men and women, the purpose of aggression, and the costs and benefits of male bonding.

At Lui Kotal, there were no rocks in the sandy earth, and the smallest pebble on a riverbed had the allure of precious metal. It is not a place for fossil hunters; the biological past is revealed only in the present. “What makes humans and nonhuman primates different?” Hohmann said. “To nail this down, you have to know how these nonhuman primates behave. We have to measure what we can see today. We can use this as a reference for the time that has passed. There will be no other way to do this. And this is what puts urgency into it: because there is no doubt that, in a hundred years, there won’t be great apes in the wild. It would be blind to look away from that. In a hundred years, the forest will be gone. We have to do it now. This forest is the very, very last stronghold. This is all we have.” ♦

for the original article from which these exerpts were uploaded go to here.
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Bucketworks Director James Carlson’s “Dance of Chimpanzee w. Bonobo Man”

I cannot entirely always silence my chimpanzee man.

He is able to shout with reason in the voice of Cicero,
His words are fires unchecked emblazoned across
All echoes expansive peace from bonobo man, whose quiet intuitions
Are suffusingly joyous, backgrounds more slowly shifting
Than frenetic foregrounds.

The bonobo man in me makes for the ages, produces with a ten thousand
year expectation, and his heat powers the lives of stars.

Yet the chimpanzee man lives richly on the white hot moment,
binding the lust of everything to itself, and makes a gravity in the now.

See how they dance unpartnered? In sync and balance they are awhirl
yin and yang, but their dissonance is through me the erosion of the

James Carlson
[email protected]
where do you fill yourself with you?

Website Featuring Portraits of Gorillas

Monika Mullin has created a web site to present her portraits of gorillas at


Fragments from Jeremy Griffith’s “Great Exodus

Raw Note File

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster. Based on work by Godsil, Commonwealth Citizen and tyler schuster.  Page last modified on May 07, 2018

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