The most unique and human-like yet least understood of all the great apes is the bonobo, a species both rare and endangered. Although sometimes called “The pygmy chimpanzee,” this little-known ape is not really a chimpanzee, nor is it a gorilla or an orangutan. It is a unique creature whose anatomy resembles that of “Lucy,” the most famous of the pre-human hominids. Like Lucy, bonobos walk far more upright than chimpanzees, gorillas or orangutans.
The great apes of Africa are being pushed to extinction. Across the forest region of West and Central Africa commercial hunting, facilitated by western-owned logging operations in the area, has become the leading threat to the survival of many primates, including gorillas and chimpanzees. This is a wildlife crisis of huge proportion, with impacts on the Great Apes, African economies, ways of life, and human health.
Savage-Rumbaugh’s work with bonobo apes, which can understand spoken language and learn tasks by watching, forces the audience to rethink how much of what a species can do is determined by biology — and how much by cultural exposure.
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