Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Kinder, Gentler, Bisexual Great Ape

A Kinder, Gentler, Bisexual Great Ape: "When Dominique Morel arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997, she had no background in animal protection. Nor had she heard of bonobos, one of two great ape species most closely related to humans. But after her first visit to the bonobo sanctuary founded by the Congolese nonprofit Amis de Bonobos du Congo (ABC), Morel fell in love with the peaceful matriarchal creatures. Although they share 98.7 percent of humans' DNA, bonobos have created a society--unlike that of chimps and people--without violence, in which sex is a form of mediation. Morel volunteered weekends as a surrogate mother for the young animals and began helping with the translation of the ABC's newsletter. She has steadily dedicated more of her life to bonobos, securing grants and other funding for Lola Ya Bonobo, the only bonobo sanctuary in the world. Caretakers there protect around 60 bonobos and prepare the animals for release back into the wild. Bonobos are one of the planet's most endangered species; scientists estimate 5,000 to 15,000 bonobos remain. They can be found only in the Congo, where they are thought to have evolved in relative isolation south and east of the Congo River, as chimpanzees evolved north…


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