Photo by @FransLanting You are looking at a female bonobo. In the wake of International Women’s Day it is worth contemplating the different solutions to gender issues bonobos have evolved. Bonobos are our closest cousins on the tree of life along with chimpanzees, but among bonobos the status of females is much higher than it is among chimps—or in most human societies. The social rank of a male bonobo is derived from the status of his mother. The bond between mother and son is strong and lasts a lifetime. Among bonobos social conflicts are often resolved through sexual encounters instead of by aggression. There is a lot we do not understand yet about them, because they only occur in a remote part of the Congo Basin where they are difficult to study. But we do know enough to appreciate them as kindred beings for whom female cooperation rather than male competition is a way of life that has served them well. Not a bad model to consider as we are rethinking gender roles in our communities and how we cope with excess aggression.
Learn more in “Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape,” a book I produced with primatologist and fellow Dutchman Frans de Waal. And follow me @FransLanting and @ChristineEckstrom for more stories from the world of nature.
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