'Hippie' apes like to make war as well as love, reveals new study of human-like bonobos


Threatening: Bonobos hunt other apes  despite the peaceful reputation

The world’s most human-like apes may not be as peace-loving as first thought, scientists have revealed.

Bonobos like to hunt and eat other primates – despite their 'hippie' reputation.

Unlike their 'cannibalistic' cousin, the common chimpanzee, bonobos were thought to restrict their meat consumption to small rodents and squirrels.

They use sex for greetings, conflict resolution and reconciliation – and males and females are actively bisexual.

But even females, who enjoy high status in their communities, were spotted joining the hunt for monkeys in the Salonga National Park in the Congo – something that is never seen in common chimpanzees.

'These findings are particularly relevant for the discussion about male dominance and bonding, aggression and hunting – a domain that was thought to separate chimpanzees and bonobos,' said German study leader Dr Gottfried Hohmann.

He said the new findings, by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, challenge the widely held view that male dominance and aggression is directly linked to hunting behaviour.

‘We always have this view that hunting is a male business,’ said Dr Hohmann. ‘What our study shows is this is not necessarily the case.

‘This has implications for models on early humans that people have proposed how humans have evolved.’


Human-like: Standing bonobos are the only other animal to have face-to-face sex

The bonobo, which until recently was usually called the pygmy chimpanzee, is the only animal, besides humans, known to engage in face-to-face sex.

Other human-like characteristics include the fact that bonobos walk upright 25 per cent of the time and have highly individual faces.

Scientsists observing the bonobos over five years recorded about 10 instances when a group of the apes set out on hunting trips in search of chimpanzees.

Each time the bonobos silently crept through the woods on the ground, trying to get underneath a group of chimps before clambering up a tree in a sudden attack, the researchers said.

The bonobo hunts were successful on fewer than half the excursions and in some cases shared the meat, evidence they were willing to share to encourage group hunting, Dr Hohmann added.