Tag: bonobos

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.

surbeck
Anyway, I digress. 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

Are We Hardwired to Kill?

By Chris Mooney | May 28, 2010 8:37 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.

We like to think that murderers are psychopaths, with some kind of abnormal psychology that would never appear in us, or someone we know. And yet most of us think we would kill in certain situations, like if we were at war, or someone was about to kill a person we loved.

How ‘natural’ is this instinct in us, and can we ever obliterate it completely?

In my new book, Bonobo Handshake, I talk about lethal aggression in one of our closest relatives, chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees and humans have a lot in common when it comes to killing: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Why Bonobos Will Save the World

By Chris Mooney | May 27, 2010 9:21 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.

When I wake up this morning, someone might try to kill me. I live 10 minutes from a small town called Durham, NC, where according to the last statistics, 22 people were killed, 76 women were raped, and there were 682 cases of aggravated assault. When a chimpanzee wakes up in the morning, they probably have the same thought. In fact, if you’re a male chimpanzee, you’re more likely to be killed by another chimpanzee than anything else. If you’re a female chimpanzee, expect to be beaten by every adolescent male who is making his way up through the ranks.

People often ask me why humans are so intelligent, as in, what is it other apes lack that makes us so unique.

I’ll tell you this: I would swap every gadget I own – my car, my laptop, the potential to fly to the moon – if I could wake up as a bonobo. No bonobo has ever been seen to kill another bonobo. There is very little violence towards females. The infants get an idyllic childhood where they do nothing but hang out with their moms and get anything they want. There is plenty of food. Lots of sex.

And yet, according to one of our studies, 75% of people have no idea what a bonobo is. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Conservation
MORE ABOUT: bonobos, vanessa woods

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

Carnivals, Documentaries, and Congo

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 7, 2009 1:36 pm

1) Update from Congo: The virus affecting bonobos is making headlines around the world.  As reported last week, they have been suffering from a mysterious flu and I’m glad word is getting out.  The worst seems to be over, but please consider making a donation to Lola ya bonobo sanctuary where orphans desperately need food and medical care.

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2) Deep Sea News is now hosting the 23rd edition of Carnival of the Blue.  Meanwhile, over at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist Interrupted), you’ll find the inaugural post for Scientia Pro Publica (Science for the People).  Each carnival has a terrific mix of featured posts from bloggers across the internet and The Intersection has contributed to both… Go take a look!

3) Next week kicks off the first annual Environmental Film Festival at YaleThe event showcases cutting-edge documentaries and short films to raise awareness of current environmental issues. The line-up looks very interesting and is free and open to the public.  Those in New Haven should check it out…  

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