Tag: bonobo handshake

Bonobo Handshake: A Review

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 24, 2010 8:49 am

I begin with a full disclosure: As many readers know, Vanessa Woods is one of my very best friends. I love spending time with her because she’s insightful, outrageous, brilliant, and funny. And I can sincerely say I love her new memoir, Bonobo Handshake for the very same reasons. But most of all, I’m recommending this book because it’s so important.

Vanessa Woods CoverAt the start of Bonobo Handshake, we’re introduced to Vanessa as she sets off rather haphazardly on an adventure to Africa with her new husband, Duke anthropologist Brian Hare. By the end, she–and we–are not the same. Woven in between is a beautiful and complex narrative about people and other primates that slowly unravels what’s really at stake.

There were times I laughed out loud reading about the challenges of working with a species that–yes–famously approaches sex as easily as humans would a handshake. But there is a lot more to bonobos than their sexual behavior. Just as Jane Goodall documented the unforgettable antics of chimpanzees like Flossie and David Greybeard, Vanessa brings us into the world of ‘Empress’ Mimi, mischievous and lovable Malou, and my favorite bonobo of all, sweet little Lodja. It’s easy to fall in love with all of them as you’re both charmed and heartbroken along the way.

That’s only one part of a very complex story. Bonobo Handshake also exposes a very tragic side of Congo. Throughout the book, Vanessa shares devastating personal accounts of war, murder, rape, and torture. She gives voice to people who are often forgotten and need desperately to be heard. You also realize how they are connected to all of us through our politics, as well as the limited resources that power our technologies. In other words, we are part of the story.

I could go on and on about why I feel this memoir is so powerful and how it finally brought Congo to life for me in a way that all of the detached TV news stories over the years could never do. Or about how I’m inspired by heroes like Claudine Andre, who sacrifice so much to make the world a better place. Or about how incredibly well Bonobo Handshake succeeds in covering such a heavy topic, while providing reasons for hope. And of course, about how much I admire Vanessa for her courage, independence, and compassion. I could do all of those things… but instead, I’ll keep it simple:

I love this book. Go read it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Just How Much Sex Are We Talking About?

By Chris Mooney | June 4, 2010 8:59 am

Vanessa Woods CoverThis is the last in a series of guest posts 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.

So there is some doubt floating around like a bad smell, that bonobos don’t even have that much sex. For a species that only 25% of people know is a great ape, and those that do know them only really know about their great sex life, taking the sex away from bonobos is like taking the mojo from Austin Powers.

Don’t let anyone tell you bonobos have equal or less sex than chimpanzees. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Bonobo Cannibalism?

By Chris Mooney | June 3, 2010 7:28 am

Vanessa Woods CoverThis 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.

Here is the latest from Martin Subeck – who I met a few years ago at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in Congo. The first thing about Martin is he’s an excellent scientist working with Gottfried Hohmann, who is one of the best. The second thing is, that like Max the bonobo, Martin is really really ridiculously goodlooking.

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Anyway, I digress. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Are Bonobos Altruistic?

By Chris Mooney | June 2, 2010 9:05 am

Vanessa Woods CoverThis 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. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Are Only Humans Good Samaritans?

By Chris Mooney | June 1, 2010 7:04 am

Vanessa Woods CoverThis 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.

The following is a modified excerpt from Bonobo Handshake.

In 1988, a crane operator called Joe Honner was digging out telegraph poles on Darrell Tree’s farm in South Australia. Joe’s three-year-old son was sitting with him in the cabin while Joe maneuvered the crane.

Suddenly, the crane swung into live telegraph wires. Over nineteen thousand volts of electricity shot through the broken wires into the crane, which, being made of metal, was a superb conductor. Joe jumped clear, but his son was stuck in the cabin. Joe rushed forward to get his son, but he was held back by the farmer, Darrell. The little boy was fine, Darrell said, as long as he didn’t move. The electricity wound around the crane, creating a perfect circuit, but the leather interior of the cabin was untouched. The boy was frightened and started to cry. As Darrell turned to get a rope to rescue him, Joe rushed forward. As soon as he touched the crane, he tapped into the circuit and electricity shot through his body, arcing him backward and rooting him to the spot.

Darrell charged Joe, pushing him clear. Both of them were knocked unconscious. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Women Against Violence – Be More Bonobo!

By Chris Mooney | May 31, 2010 8:16 am

Vanessa Woods CoverThis 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 the US, 600 women are sexually assaulted every day. One woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds. Despite education campaigns and law enforcement, and penalties, violence continues to threaten women throughout America. What can we do to make women safe?

I believe bonobos may have the answer. Once I saw Tatango, an unusually aggressive bonobo male, run up to Mimi, the alpha female, and backhand her across the face. He hit her so hard he almost gave her whiplash. Within seconds, five females in the group ran to Mimi’s rescue. They chased Tatango around the night building until he fled into the forest. When he continued his aggressive outbursts, those five females beat him so badly, they damn near ripped off his testicles. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Your Inner Bonobo

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 8, 2010 6:46 am

I’ve blogged in the past about Duke primate scientist Vanessa Woods and now I encourage readers to go visit her newest blog at Psychology Today Your Inner Bonobo where she writes about bonobos, sex, and whatever happens to be on her mind on any given day. Besides being one of my best friends, Woods is a fantastic and funny writer, and her forthcoming book Bonobo Handshake debuts in June. Here’s a sample from Tuesday:

‘Can animals be gay?’ – are you serious NYT?

IMG_8643Having a story about same sex sex in animals then leaving out bonobos is like writing an article about big ears without mentioning elephants.The science of homosexuality in animals (or socio-sexual behavior) and then you talk about albatrosses?? that don’t even have a clitoris?? Or do they? the point is, even if they do have them, it’s not like you would ever notice. I know the albatrosses are the latest thing, and I love albatross and think it’s really cool the female raise babies together, but does that really compete with two females rubbing their clitorises together with ever increasing frenzy until they orgasm – which by the way helps them reduce social tension and live in a world without violence??

I can only think that the journalist

a. doesn’t know what bonobos are

b. got scared by the 2007 New Yorker article saying bonobos don’t even have that much sex

c. is a lesbian albatross doing her own PR campaign.

And that’s just the beginning, so go check it out

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservation
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