This is a guest post from Vanessa Woods, author of the new book, Bonobo Handshake. Vanessa is a Research Scientist in Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University and studies the cognition of chimpanzees and bonobos in Congo.
In my new book Bonobo Handshake, I talk about a bonobo called Mimi who throws herself over the dead body of another bonobo.
Lipopo was a seven year old bonobo who was new to the group. Mimi wasn’t particularly fond of him, she just kindof ignored him most of the time. When Lipopo died, Mimi stood over the body and wouldn’t let the keepers take him.
The keepers turned up with long poles to take the body away, a scary sight for any bonobo – they are usually quite shy. But Mimi would not give up the body.
She pushed at the poles and she held on to the body. She just kept grooming his face and trying to keep the flies away. It was as though she was mourning his death but still felt she had to protect him.
The body was in a tight space, near the tunnel. She must have been afraid but she wouldn’t let him go. Then Crispin the vet turned up with the dart gun, which looks like a gun. The last thing these bonobos saw before their mothers died was a man with a gun. So Crispin comes out with the gun to try and get Mimi to leave the body, but she refused. She wouldn’t let Lipopo go.
Here is the video Brian took at the time:
Earlier in the month, I reported on the Altruistic parachute instructor whose heroic act made national news. Some researchers think altruism is what makes us human.
But Felix Warneken has found evidence for altruism in chimpanzees. And now with this video on Mimi, how else would you interpret it except for altruism in bonobos?