Wildlife Species of the Week


Bonobo, Chimpanzee, Gorilla, and Orangutan; are the four great apes belonging to Hominidae family of Primates. Their similarities lie in tail-less appearance in all these four species. Popularly, most people refer all primates as monkeys, but the truth is monkeys are the ones with tails. Africa was the place where the first tail-less primates appeared. Orangutan appeared between 12 and 15 millions years ago, and after came the gorillas (8 to 9 millions). Chimpanzees and bonobos appeared 5 or 6 million years ago (Novak, 1999). Of these four species, Bonobo is the smallest while the Eastern Gorilla is the heavy weight champion (Novak, 1999).

This month of August, we shall examine the features, similarities and differences between the four great apes.

THE BONOBO (Pan Paniscus)

Bonobos striking resemblance with Chimpanzees led scientists to refer to them as “smaller versions of the Chimps” and are named “pygmy chimpanzee”, apparently because of their stunted/dwarf appearance. Although bonobos are not a subspecies of chimpanzees, but rather a distinct species on their own (Doran 1993).

This nonhuman ape is endemic to Democratic Republic of Congo habituating Congo Basin, the second largest rain-forest on earth. The effect of range restriction hampered bonobo population, now an endangered species is threatened by habitat destruction and urbanization/human growth.

Bonobos are both terrestrial and arboreal, diet is majorly fruits with other supplements as meat, eggs, honey, leaves etc. All four great apes are omnivores. Though similar in appearance to chimpanzees, Bonobos are differentiated with their slender upper body, narrow shoulders, and long lower limbs, pink lips, dark face, and parted long hair on its head.

Unlike its counterpart, Bonobo social behaviour is tilted towards female dominance, extreme cyclic sexual behaviour, their brains are wired for empathy and other forms of socializing (traits are also found in humans, whales and elephants). Chimps, on the other hand, do not possess these traits. Bonobo infants take a longer time to develop than baby chimps. It takes about three years for them to start wandering farther away from their mothers (Stanford, 1998).



Novak RM (1999). Walker’s Mammals of the World (6th ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9.

Doran DM (May 1993). “Comparative locomotor behavior of chimpanzees and bonobos: the influence of morphology on locomotion”. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 91 (1): 83–98.

Stanford CB (1998). “The Social Behavior of Chimpanzees and Bonobos: Empirical Evidence and Shifting Assumptions”. Current Anthropology. 39 (4): 399–420.