From the Archives, 2008: In this installment of "Letters from Claudine" she describes seeing bonobos in the wild while working with the crew of Bonobos: Back to the Wild. The film is now available on Amazon Prime.
While making the film we spent several weeks alongside the wild bonobos in the forest of the
Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape. These were unforgettable moments for me! Sitting on the ground with the tracker, surrounded by the entire party of bonobos who were just a few meters away, we shared very special moments, like we do at Lola!
The bonobos are no different in Wamba: not the least bit shy and very intrigued by our presence. We followed them all day, from times of rest to foraging trips, when they would seek out the little orange fruit in season of which they are so fond.
During these days spent following them, my thoughts often went to the hunters who always tell me that bonobos are magicians!
“Bonobos are magicians. The group is there, then all of a sudden... they’re gone! And no one heard a thing… they walk around the tree trunks... hide... and then disappear! What clever apes!”
And it’s true! When [the bonobos] want to, they all leave without a sound. Laughing, I say that they take the “elevator.” In this brightly lit forest, where giant trees tower over the smaller ones, the bonobos lower themselves down the tall trunks and long branches which bend and fold under their weight, almost silently! Once on the ground they quietly continue on their way. What clever apes!
Observing Bonobos in Treetops
We had set up mountaineering ropes to observe the bonobos in the treetops. The contraption was of great interest to them – they came very close in order to investigate the pretty pink snap hooks, right next to Géraldine and Stéphanie, our “rope specialists!”
This exercise was tough, athletic and often uncomfortable, but was organized as best it could be with the materials at hand.
Hugo, the film’s stage manager, worked hard to provide us with the best there was! I thought of “Kuki”, a female bonobo named by Dr. Kano during the first studies on bonobo behaviour: I was given her name as a nickname by the Wamba trackers!