Research published in 2005 confirmed close similarities between the human genetic structure and that of Bonobo monkeys. Many differences exist between the two species, but pure statistical comparison reveals a 98% commonality in DNA sequences.
We human beings have entrepreneurship in our genes
experiments in the United States of America have shown the Bonobos'
capacity to memorize words and use primitive tools. Tests show that,
with sustained training, these animals can equal the linguistic
abilities of a two-year-old human child.
Interesting as this
research may be, the question is whether we can learn something from
Bonobo monkeys. Ape enthusiasts have pointed out how peaceful these
animals are, but facts contradict this conclusion: Bonobos are known to
behave violently on some occasions. Their society cannot be portrayed as
free of aggression.
Those who promote vegetarianism amongst
humans by pointing at the Bonobos' diet also lack scientific evidence.
Observation in their natural habitat has shown these apes eating not
only fruit, but also smaller animals such as flying squirrels.
there any characteristics of Bonobo monkeys worth reflecting upon?
Human beings possess infinitely more intelligence than apes, but are we
necessarily happier? If our thinking impairs our primitive instincts,
does this always happen to our advantage?
Naturalists are making
great efforts to save Bonobos from extinction. At the turn of the 21st
century, only a few thousand of these apes continue to live in their
natural habitat in Central Africa. Hunting by man and deforestation,
which diminishes their food supply, represent the greatest threats to
The natural tendency to allocate resources efficiently
From what we know about Bonobo monkeys, four
elements catch our attention: they possess modest skills to allocate
resources, some marks of individuality, a tendency to avoid unnecessary
effort, and a limited ability to adopt self-protection measures. Let us
review these four ideas in detail.
First, allocation of resources:
Bonobo monkeys, like all animals, do not move always at the same speed.
What makes these apes remarkable is that they are able to walk upright
on two feet for extended distances. Scientists estimate that Bonobo
monkeys walk approximately ¼ of the time in upright posture.
do not know yet what makes them walk sometimes upright and otherwise on
all fours. The logical conclusion might be that, to a certain extent,
Bonobos are able to allocate their physical resources to match the
Similarly, observers in Central Africa have noted how
Bonobo monkeys split in groups to look for food more efficiently. The
drive to optimize resource allocation, which is intense in human beings,
seems to be a characteristic that we share with Bonobos.
Second, marks of individuality: the facial features of each Bonobo are highly
differentiated, as it is the case in humans. Each monkey is unique and
can be distinguished from other members of the species. On the other
hand, research fails to show evidence of personality in apes to an
extent that could be compared with complex human traits.
individuality of Bonobos is linked to their particular family and group.
Incestuous relationships do not take place and intruders from other
groups are rejected. For humans, our uniqueness encompasses
psychological aspects, convictions, and personal interests. In both
cases, human and ape, attempts to ignore individual traits generate
Wasting efforts and working for nothing is against human nature
Third, avoiding unnecessary effort: Bonobos eat mostly
plants and fruits available in the area they inhabit in Central Africa.
Hunting, which demands much more effort than foraging, plays an
exceptional role. When these apes go after smaller animals, they focus
on preys that can be easily caught and quickly eaten up.
monkeys hunt above all flying squirrels and small forest antelopes.
Preys are eaten up immediately after caught. Such violent behaviour is
relatively uncommon for these apes, since they can obtain proteins more
easily by eating haumania, a plant that grows in Central Africa.
humans, the tendency to spare unnecessary effort seems to be linked to
individual motivation. Long-term productivity gains demand levels of
thoughtfulness, patience, and personal involvement that not every person
is willing to contribute. However, the general inclination to avoid
waste is present in all men.
Fourth, adoption of measures that
further self-protection: Bonobo monkeys build nests in trees where they
retire to sleep at night. In their natural environment in Central
Africa, this protective measure proves highly effective against
predators. In addition, Bonobos protect their territory against
intruders from other groups. These apes tend to react to problems by
acquiring stable habits that consolidate improvements.
in the United States aimed at teaching Bonobos to recognize words show
that their learning takes place in stages. After they memorize a series
of sounds or signs, the knowledge is consolidated before further symbols
can be taught. Human beings learn in a similar way, for instance
foreign languages, although at an incalculably higher speed.
monkeys share the above four characteristics with humans, but their
performance is lower in all areas. Improvements in Bonobos' cognitive
skills take place only in controlled experiments. Left on their own,
these apes show little ability to develop or acquire new knowledge.
The irrepressible capacity for constant improvement
we can learn from Bonobo monkeys is that their desire to profit from
the environment with minimum effort seems to be innate. Bonobos possess
marks of individuality, try to avoid unnecessary labour and are able, to
a modest extent, to adopt self-protection measures.
these apes react to problems by searching solutions that provide
tolerable levels of stability. The inclination towards increasing
efficiency is present in Bonobos only to the extent of their limited
intellect. In man, who is endowed with endless capabilities for
improvement, this tendency is irrepressible.
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