The New Yorker, of all publications, has a fascinating Ian Parker article on the natural history of the bonobo – the sexy primate that’s supposed to choose orgies over fighting to establish social roles. The “hippie chimp,” people call them. But they haven’t spent that much time observing them – not in the wild, nor in large groups in captivity.
Hohmann has witnessed a number of kills, and the dismembering, nearly always by females, that follows. Bonobos start with the abdomen; they eat the intestines first, in a process that can leave a duiker alive for a long while after it has been captured.
Jeroen Stevens is a young Belgian biologist who has spent thousands of hours studying captive bonobos in European zoos. I met him last year at the Planckendael Zoo, near Antwerp. “I once saw five female bonobos attack a male in Apenheul, in Holland,” he said. “They were gnawing on his toes. I’d already seen bonobos with digits missing, but I’d thought they would have been bitten off like a dog would bite. But they really chew. There was flesh between their teeth.”