Bonobos are part of the great ape family and are our closest living relatives, sharing around 98% of our DNA. They are physically different to the chimpanzee, as they are more slender, have blacker faces, central hair partings and red lips.
Bonobos live in fission-fusion communities of 30-80 individuals. They split and reform smaller groups of 5-15 individuals on a regular basis. Males remain with their birth group and females leave once they are mature. The groups are led by a dominant female.
Social bonds are very important and bonobos have very complex communications. Sexual relations are important for bonding and will occur between any group members.
Most of their diet consists of plants (particularly fruit) but they will also fish for termites with sticks and eat other vertebrate animals up to the size of a small deer.
Bonobo population numbers are highly approximate as they are dispersed in small groups throughout the forest in a difficult to access country. The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo meant that rival armies encouraged hunting for meat and the war disrupted conservation efforts. These factors continue to influence human-bonobo interactions.
Poaching, the increasing human population and movement of people, habitat destruction and a lack of awareness are all important issues threatening bonobos. There are conservation projects in place but to truly protect the bonobo, hunting must be stopped. Education to change local attitudes will also be essential for the continued survival of this species.