Please note, you can access all previous explanatory and inspirational WTM Emails at the end of this email. Wednesday’s explanatory emails and Friday’s inspirational emails are numbered in order of appearance, so one is odd and the other even numbered.
This is inspirational WTM Email 12
Bonobos, and what these primates teach us about our own evolutionary history
Until biologist Jeremy Griffith found the clarifying, redeeming and rehabilitating explanation for why we humans became competitive, selfish and aggressive — in fact, so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet — we couldn’t afford to acknowledge the truth that our species’ once lived cooperatively and lovingly.
It is only now, with the redeeming explanation of the human condition that we can admit without shame that our distant primate ancestors lived in a pre-human-condition-afflicted, innocent, loving, peaceful state — and that , the endangered variety of chimpanzee living south of the Congo river, provide a truly astonishing, living example of what those ancestors were like.
To give you some feel for the extraordinary nature of bonobos, we have compiled a selection of amazing observations and images that appear in Jeremy’s book FREEDOM. The first observation comes from filmmakers on the set of the beautifully-filmed 2011 French documentary, Bonobos:
They’re surely the most fascinating animals on the planet. They’re the closest animals to man. They’re the only animals capable of creating the same “gaze” as a human. When you look at a bonobo you’re taken aback because you can see behind the eyes it’s not just curiosity, it’s understanding. We see human beings in the eyes of the bonobo.”
Once I got hit on the head with a branch that had a bonobo on it. I sat down and the bonobo noticed I was in a difficult situation and came and took me by the hand and moved my hair back, like they do. So they live on compassion, and that’s really interesting to experience.’’ (Footage can be viewed here but please note the narration is in French)
Yes, as the bonobo caretaker Barbara Bell has said:
Adult bonobos demonstrate tremendous compassion for each other…For example, Kitty, the eldest female, is completely blind and hard of hearing. Sometimes she gets lost and confused. They’ll just pick her up and take her to where she needs to go.”
They’re extremely intelligent… They understand a couple of hundred words… It’s like being with 9 two and a half year olds all day’ and ‘They also love to tease me a lot… Like during training, if I were to ask for their left foot, they’ll give me their right, and laugh and laugh and laugh.” (Chicago Tribune, 11 June 1998)
Researchers have also reported that,
Up to 100 bonobos at a time from several groups spend their night together. That would not be possible with chimpanzees because there would be brutal fighting between rival groups.” (Paul Raffaele, ‘Bonobos: The apes who make love, not war’, Last Tribes on Earth, 2003; see <www.wtmsources.com/143>)
The bonobos’ unlimited capacity for love is also tangible in this truly amazing first-hand account from researcher Vanessa Woods:
Bonobo love is like a laser beam. They stop. They stare at you as though they have been waiting their whole lives for you to walk into their jungle. And then they love you with such helpless abandon that you love them back. You have to love them back.” (Vanessa Woods, ‘A moment that changed me – my husband fell in love with a bonobo’, The Guardian, 1 Oct. 2015)
Significantly, unlike other primate societies, bonobo society is matriarchal and focused on the nurturing of their infants:
Bonobo life is centered around the offspring. Unlike what happens among chimpanzees, all members of the bonobo social group help with infant care and share food with infants. If you are a bonobo infant, you can do no wrong… Bonobo females and their infants form the core of the group.” (Dr Sue Savage-Rumbaugh & writer Roger Lewin, Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind, 1994)
Finally, the following picture indicates just how physiologically similar our species are, comparing as it does the skeleton of our early australopithecine ancestor (who lived between 3.9 and 3 million years ago) with the skeleton of a bonobo.
These amazing descriptions provide powerful insights into not just how aware, cooperative and loving bonobos are — they provide an extraordinary portal into what life was like for our primate ancestors. We can only hope that with the human condition now solved, this most special species can be properly recognised and its extinction prevented.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Read Jeremy Griffith’s breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in , and confirmations of the truth of our species’ cooperative past in . Jeremy also writes at length about the loving and nurturing nature of bonobos, and how they evidence our species’ cooperative past, in , ‘The Origin of Humans’ Unconditionally Selfless, Altruistic, Moral Instinctive Self or Soul’.
Discussion or comment on this email is welcomed — see below.
See all previous WTM Emails
(Note, Wednesday’s explanatory emails and Friday’s inspirational emails are numbered in order of appearance, so one is odd and the other even numbered.)
These emails were composed during 2017 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood,
Fiona Cullen-Ward & Brony FitzGerald at the Sydney WTM Centre.