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Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape Hardcover – May 23, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0520205352 ISBN-10: 0520205359 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (May 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520205359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520205352
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #947,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For Frans de Waal, man is not the only moral entity, as he made clear in his last book--Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. The author has long been intrigued by chimpanzee politics and mores, and now he has turned his human heart and scientific mind to a species science has tended to celebrate solely for its sex drive. Bonobos may look like chimps, but they are actually even closer to us--far more upright, physically, for a start. Furthermore, where chimpanzees hunt, fight, and politic like mad, bonobos are peaceful, often ambisexual, and matriarchal. (Of course, hyenas are matriarchal too, but that's another story ...) De Waal's collaborator, Frans Lanting, has been photographing these gentle creatures for some years and augments the primatologist's explorations and interviews with hundreds of superb color shots. The penultimate picture is of bonobos crossing a road while schoolchildren stand watching, a short distance away. If, as the truism goes, all books about animal behavior are ultimately about us, this exploration of the bonobo may be a step in the right direction.

From Booklist

Bonobos, formerly called "pygmy chimpanzees," are the least known of the great apes. This wonderful book by a preeminent primatologist does much to introduce the general reader to one of our closest relatives. Covering studies undertaken both in captivity and in the species' natural habitat in Zaire, de Waal's riveting account compares bonobo behavior with that of the better-known chimpanzee and with humans. Complemented by Frans Lanting's coffee-table-quality photographs of wild and captive bonobos, the chapters cover the discovery of the bonobo (in 1929), its habitat and how it shaped the species' behavior, and the fears for the future of wild bonobos in an unstable region. Interviews with researchers provide a full picture of scientific studies, and extensive notes pertaining to each chapter explain many concepts in greater detail. This highly recommended book should be in all libraries. One minor warning: bonobos engage in all forms of sexual contact, and this behavior is fully explored in both the text and the photos. Nancy Bent

Customer Reviews

A book like this is well worth the 20 dollars and is a good addition to the library of anyone interested in great apes.
prime8
In his book, Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape, primatologist Frans de Waal does a superb job of comparing the three cousins, and the photos of Frans Lanting are fantastic.
Richard Reese (author of Sustainable or Bust)
It is really a study of sexuality and by the end, leaves you feeling like we (humans) are the ones who have a lot of evolving to do.
Kytka Hilmar-Jezek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Most people are familiar with chimps but few have heard of the bonobo, but we resemble them behaviorally more than any of the other great apes. Also I recall reading once that we have the greatest genetic similarity to bonobos. I forget the exact figure, but humans share something like 99.5 percent of their genetic material with bonobos.
De Waal teamed up with internationally acclaimed nature photographer Hans Lanting to produce not only a very scholarly but very readable and interesting book, and a visually very striking one as well.
There are many similarities between bonobo behavior and humans, and ways in which they differ from other apes. Females have higher social standing in bonobo society compared to chimps, and high-ranking males never stay that way for long unless they have the support of at least a high-ranking female or two.
Females also cooperate more than in other apes. They have been observed working together to drive off an aggressive male, which doesn't happen in chimps. Females are also very social, and seek to establish alliances with other males. This can come in handy in various ways. For example, during the mating season, if a a male the female doesn't like wants to mate, she can effectively rebuff his attempts by getting her other male friends to come to her aid. They even resemble us in their sexual behavior, since they are the only ape observed to use the missionary position during sex, which they do about half the time.
This is just a small sample of the many interesting and thought-provoking things I picked up from reading this book. Overall, a fascinating and very visually appealing presentation on this little-known and understood relative among the great apes.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the most scandalous book I've come accross in years. I am going to send it to all my favorite people.
Who would have thought that any animal has a more highly developed sexuality than humans? This book breaks ground and opens up a whole world of animal sexuality that most people don't like to even think about. Animals having sex for fun. Animals having oral sex. Animals having homosexual sex. It's fascinating, and the pictures are fabulous. They look just like us.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ein Kunde on April 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Say "ape" and people think of chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. Most have never heard of the bonobo, the forgotten ape. No wonder. The bonobo was one of the last large mammals to be scientifically classified. Long confused with chimpanzees, it was declared a distinct species only in the 1930s. There are very few bonobos in the wild, and far fewer in zoos. But bonobos are, as is made very clear in this book, very different from chimpanzees, especially in their family and social structures and, to be most frank about it, their sexual habits. I will leave more detail to the author, world-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal. This is a very interesting and well written book, with much to say about apes, and much food for thought about our own species. It includes many excellent photographs by Frans Lanting.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Alexander on October 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos evolved from a common ancestor. Humans have characteristics of both animals, plus some unique characteristics. By studying two of our nearest relatives, we gain insight into our past.
The social structure of chimpanzees and bonobos are very different. Chimps have a male dominated culture, while bonobos have a female dominated culture where infanticide is unknown. Human leaders tend to be male, but we have some bonobo features. Humans have sex for reasons other than procreation and we have empathy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By hoogland on June 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
An exceptional book with beautiful and revealing photos that show how strikingly similar these pygmee chimps are to us humans. The main strength of this book lies in the photos by Lanting. They portray the Bonobo as an ape of gentle demaenor and high intellect. The text is a little rudimentary and does not give a very expansive overview of the species, but in all this book is definitely worth purchasing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By prime8 on October 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is wonderful in that it is one of the few scholarly works entirely devoted to pygmy chimpanzees, except for Randy Susman's edited volume (1984) and Kano's (1992) book. Interesting to the layperson, graduate student, and published scientist, Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape is not only filled with good information and beautiful glossy photos, it suggests new and interesting ideas to developing academics. A book like this is well worth the 20 dollars and is a good addition to the library of anyone interested in great apes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a ground breaking book which forces humans to realize that not all of the great apes are violent as chimpanzees have been pigeonholed. It ultimately questions our humanness in relation to our 2 closest relatives: chimps & bonobos. Humans have characteristics of both, then why do many humans believe human nature is violent? This book gives us a mirror to see ourselves in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Valerie J. Saturen VINE VOICE on October 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
In the popular imagination, the word "ape" conjures a brutish image, evoking a bestial human past in which life contained little more than the ruthless struggle for dominance. Until relatively recently, our knowledge of our genetic cousins seemed to confirm this picture; most apes, including chimps, have strongly hierarchical societies characterized by male dominance and frequent power struggles. The bonobo, however, has shattered scientists' assumptions about primate behavior. This book provides a fascinating glimpse into the complex lives of these gentle apes.

If bonobos could chant slogans, they would probably be imploring us to "make love, not war." Physically, bonobos differ little from other chimps, except for their smaller size. Yet their social lives are remarkably different. Although males are larger and capably of physically dominating females, female bonobos enjoy dominance within a relaxed, relatively fluid hierarchy. Unlike chimps, which can be quite violent toward members of their own species, bonobos are adept at resolving conflicts. Mostly, they achieve this through sexual behavior that would make any fundamentalist preacher turn purple (including homosexuality). Both in the wild and in captivity, they display a level of emotional intelligence that is amazing to find in a nonhuman animal, which the book documents through striking, often humorous anecdotes.

De Waal offers an intriguing discussion of how the bonobo's unique society may have evolved. Interestingly, he postulates that females became promiscuous, bonded with other females, and developed nearly year-round displays of sexual receptivity in order to counter the male habit of infanticide that sometimes occurs in chimps.
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