Bonobo: The Lovemaking, Anarchist Ape
Bonobos are great apes of central Africa. Their home sits in densely lush, swampy areas of the Congo jungle. They are said to be the most peaceful apes on the planet and exhibit little to no violence. They may be the only "anarchist apes" in existence. In this context, anarchist refers to a species that rejects violent domination or ruler-centric hierarchies.
Bonobo Details and Relationship to Humans
Scientifically, bonobos are classified as pan paniscus. They are closely linked to chimpanzees or Pan troglodytes. Bonobos were identified as early as 1933, and used to be referred to as "pygmy chimpanzees." Some primatologists think they're the nearest relative to homo sapiens (humans).
Zoosociety.org claims bonobos are "prototype" humans, and go on to say, "while this controversy is unresolved, it has been established through molecular genetic analysis that the chimpanzee genus, Pan, is the most closely related to humans and shares approximately 98.7% genetic identity" (4). Other scientists find this data inadequate and think that further research is necessary. Wikipedia states this about the bonobo-human relationship: "an alternative philosophy suggests that the term homo sapiens is the misnomer rather, and that humans should be reclassified as pan sapiens" (6).
Jared Diamond elaborated on the aforesaid concept in his book, The Third Chimpanzee. He argued persuasively that humans share a close relationship with these magnificent apes. His arguments kindled a debate in scientific circles, with some professionals suggesting Bonobo's are indeed humanity's closest kindred spirit.
Bonobos are Considered a Sexually Active, Anarchist Apes
Bonobos are an endangered species, though. They are poor swimmers. Their native habitat sits near the Congo river. This explains the lack of disbursement among the species. But the most interesting thing about bonobos are their social peculiarities.
Sexuality plays a key role in the their "social culture." They settle disputes through sexual acts rather than violence, and have a matriarchal or linked hierarchy or social setup. this has led many to call them "Hippie apes," "love monkeys," "anarchy apes," and other such names. An Emory site, "OurInnerApe," makes this claim clear:
"Some scientists try to keep bonobos on the sidelines, since they fail to fit certain "macho" scenarios of human evolution (which emphasize violence, hunting, and the like), yet bonobos are equally close to us as chimps hence equally relevant" (5).
This is a video of them in action. It gives many insights about these fascinating creatures, including the notion that they walk upright, make a lot of love, and are peacemaking creatures.
Bonobos Could be Statist Apes? Their Appetite for Violence is Absent
However, not all scientists believe that their perfectly peaceful creatures. Some would say they look more like violent statists. Primatologist De Waal warns people not to overly-romanticize the bonobo. Some have noted seeing the bonobos hunt rogue males, kill them, and share the remains (more evidence needed).
Bonobos main food source is plants and fruit, but they also eat small insects. Sometimes, they hunt and kill small mammals and distribute the flesh peacefully among themselves, although the evidence of this is scattered and pending research. Here's two separate claims about possible violent behavior:
"Several bonobos gathered around the possessor of the meat and showed interest in the meat on all occasions. Begging behavior was noted on one of the two occasions, but the possessor of the meat ignored it. No sharing of meat was seen on either occasion"
"Males and females hunt together, and females tended to share their spoils which included the young of two species of monkeys. The discovery casts doubt on claims that social aggression and hunting go hand in hand, Hohmann says. Some anthropologists suggest that in the million or so years that separate bonobos from chimps, bonobos lost their appetite for violence."
Sue Savage-Rubaugh and Bonobo Intelligence
Studies of Bonobo intelligence have been exemplified through the work of primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. She has successfully taught one Bonobo named Kanzi several "tricks," including language acquisition and toolmaking. Watch in awe as Kanzi creates a tool to acheive food. Then, although bonobos don't have a larynx and can't speak, they can react to symbolic language.
Though this seems fascinating, ape language abilities have taken heavy criticism, most notably from cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, and famous linguist Noam Chomsky.
Wikipedia provides information on their arguments: "Among the reasons for skepticism are the differences in ease with which human beings and apes can learn language, questions as to whether there is a clear beginning and end to the signed gestures, and whether the apes actually understand language or are simply doing a clever trick for a reward"(3).
Conclusion: The Anarchist Ape
The activities of bonobos are human-like. The way bonobos behave may have been similar to early human society, especially considering the genetic evidence. In this regard, early human society would have been more anarchistic. It would have involved more lovemaking, peacemaking, and goddess worship.
The evidence is not 100% clear, but it does suggest that Bonobo's are animals of love who resolve disputes with sex and intimacy instead of violence. These are creatures that have evolved without a propensity for aggression when compared to other great apes. These are animals that humans can ultimately learn from, because they provide the realization of the anarchist dream: that society is possible with little initiatory aggression and more compassionate lovemaking.
Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind By Sue Savage-Rumbaugh