How Generous Are Great Apes?

If you ever find yourself lost, alone and hungry in the Congo, try to find some bonobos. According to Duke University researchers, bonobos (great apes that are close relatives of the chimpanzee) are generous with their food -- especially to strangers. Evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare and graduate student Jingzhi Tan conducted a series of experiments at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, that tested bonobos' willingness to share with others. In one experiment, the apes were given ample food in a closed setting and could choose to eat all of it themselves, or open their enclosure to allow in an acquaintance, a stranger, or both. By a significant majority, the bonobos preferred to share with the stranger. The other experiments backed up their basic conclusion: Bonobos like to extend their social network, even if it means losing out on some grub and possibly rebuffing some friends. Hare called the outcome "one of the crazier things we've found" when it comes to studying apes.

Bonobo basics:

  • Bonobos are the closest primate relative to humans and more genetically similar to people than to gorillas.
  • Bonobos have learned the health benefits of some plants, even combining them to develop medicinal remedies.
  • Bonobos probably got their name from a misspelling on a shipping crate being sent to Bolobo, Zaire, in the 1920s.
More Info: Duke University

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