Pan paniscus

Bonobos can be distinguished from chimpanzees by their more slender frame, longer hind limbs, shorter clavicle, and smaller molars. They are generally smaller than chimpanzees and are also less dimorphic – males only 30% heavier than females. Its facial skin and hair are black, and it has a prominent tail tuft.








Democratic Republic of the Congo


Lowland rainforests and swamps

Life Expectancy

Up to 40 years

Sexual Maturity

Sexual maturity is reached at about 7 years of age.


In the wild, they eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, leaves, seeds, shoots and bark and meat. In the Zoo, they are fed monkey chow, leafy greens, fruit, and vegetables


USF&WS – Endangered, CITES I, IUCN – Endangered, AZA - SSP


Bonobos live in multi-male multi-female communities or troops that range in size from 50-120 individuals. Subgroups of 1 to 70 individuals have also been observed and consist of matriarchal sub-units. The communities are closed social networks within which individuals forage partly independently. Bonobo societies are different from those of many other primates in that females, not males, transfer between groups. Females leave natal groups as older juveniles or in early adolescence (7-9 years) and transfer to another unit in which they breed and grow old. Older females maintain strong bonds with their grown adult sons and occupy the highest ranks among the females of the group. Males, on the other hand, stay in their natal group and acquire rank based on their mother’s rank. Inter-community relations are antagonistic. Bonobos are diurnal. Bonobos have a gestation period of 225 days. They give birth to 1 young, and very rarely have twins. The young weigh approximately four pounds at birth. Major foods include fruits, shoots, leaves, seeds, flowers, and bark. Vertebrate meat sources include rodents, insectivores, and snakes. Invertebrate sources include ants, termites, bees, crickets, caterpillars, beetles, earthworms, and millipedes.


These primates use their hands and feet for climbing trees and gathering the fruits and leaves that form the major part of their diet. When the bonobo moves on the ground it moves quadrupedally in a position called knuckle-walking. In trees, this species also moves in a quadrupedal manner. Bonobos also use suspensory behavior to move around within a feeding source. On the ground, bonobos can also walk bipedally. Bonobos seem to have a very complex communication system. Many scientists suspect it may be something like language, rather than only emotional expressions. Scientists have found that bonobos can learn language even though they cannot talk as we do because their vocal tract is shaped a little differently.

Special Interests

Chimpanzees, bonobos and man engage in sexual intercourse for other purposes than procreation. This species was first described as a separate species from museum collections in 1929. Their restriction to closed-canopy forests south of the Zaire River has protected them from most collectors, and little is known in detail of their distribution or variation. Bonobos seem to be closer to humans than the common chimpanzee in structure, intelligence, and many habits, including walking upright. Bonobos have also been called pygmy chimpanzees. Despite this reference, this species is no smaller than its relative, the chimpanzee.


The greatest threats to the bonobo are habitat loss and hunting. Some may be captured for food, local trade, or for export to zoos and bio-medical research institutions. In 1973, their population was estimated at 54,000 animals. Since that time, Japanese researchers estimated that numbers have dwindled by more than half due to hunting and habitat destruction, and the population now numbers somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals.


Jacksonville Zoo History

The Zoo’s first bonobos arrived in March 1998. They have successfully bred here.


African Forest