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  • Writer's pictureagentlouisa

February means #BonoboLove

February 14th is World Bonobo Day! What can bonobos teach us about love?

PLUS- How you can celebrate

Two bonobos hugging World Bonobo Day Feb. 14 logo

Could bonobos show us how to have a caring Valentine’s Day?

Bonobos are often known as the ‘make love not war’ apes, so St. Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is the perfect date for World Bonobo Day.

But is this just because they are somewhat…promiscuous? Bonobos certainly make love a lot because they use this ‘bonobo handshake’ to settle arguments or competition before fighting breaks out. They are biologically conditioned to look for a peaceful solution, unlike their more rambunctious cousins, the chimpanzees.

But there’s more to bonobos than the activities that come after (or more likely before) dinner.

They like to have fun

Bonobos are playful apes. Like humans they can smile, laugh and put on a ‘play face’ when they’re having a fun rough and tumble rather than a real fight. 

bonobos lying on the ground laughing having fun

Bonobos don’t just play with members of their own group. When meeting up with another group, instead of fighting, they will play and engage in sexual contact.

And, like humans, they like to kiss and hug, and make love for fun, sometimes face-to-face.

They are good at relationships

Bonobo couple engaging in socio-sexual contact
Bonobo couple engaging in socio-sexual contact Credit: Leon Haberkorn

When moving around in the wild, looking for food and nesting sites, they will wait for the rest of the group to catch up before feasting. They like to hang out, have fun and sleep in large mixed groups at night.

Bonobos understand when other bonobos are in distress, and they make more eye contact than chimps. They will console their friends when they are hurt and yawn when others are yawning, just like humans.

But are they monogamous? Er, no. They will have their favourites but bonobos love to share the love - consensual and pansexual - to court favour, to settle arguments, to defuse tension. They don’t save themselves for their nearest and dearest!

Mums have a say in romance

In the wild, male bonobos are more likely to have success with women if their mums are around. Often in the wild and always in captivity, a female bonobo leads the group, with her eldest son the alpha male. With mum around, the daughters of the high-ranking females are more likely to mate with their sons.

This female leadership, where bonobo friendships, family, and strong female bonds counter the bigger strength of the males, makes the bonobo a peace-loving species.

Bonobos love babies

Despite all the love-making, bonobos only have babies every four years after their child becomes more independent. The low birth rate means each new baby is extra-precious.

Bonobo mother and nursing baby
Photo by Andrey Gudkov

And because bonobo mums are so important to their babies - love is as important as food - Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary (the only bonobo sanctuary in the world) employs human Mamas to take care of rescued bonobo babies, who are sadly orphaned due to poaching. Without round-the-clock love and attention, the babies would die from a broken heart.

What can bonobos teach us about love?

Unlike chimps, bonobos mostly work out their family issues through love, not fighting. They share food willingly, they notice if one of their number is hurt, they play and have fun, they cherish babies.

We can show them love by helping the survival and 'thrival' of the bonobos. The best way to do this is by supporting Friends of Bonobos, a top-rated charity.

Friends of Bonobos rescues orphaned and injured bonobos to the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, educates Congolese about their precious and unique species (bonobos are only found in the Central African rainforests of the DRC), and rewilds them in the DRC Ekolo ya Bonobo Community Reserve.


YOU can celebrate World Bonobo Day!

YOU can join the celebration of #BonoboLove this World Bonobo Day.

Bonobos are the least known of the great apes. Now that you know why we celebrate them on February 14 - Valentine's Day - it's easy to become a bonobo ambassador!

Here's how:

Move Over, Teddy Bear!

When you tag us and use the hashtag #BonoboLove you will get a chance to win an exclusive baby bonobo plush toy. (Offer valid through Feb. 14, 2023 for U.S. addresses only.)

Join Us and Spread the LOVE!


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