National Geographic : 2013 Mar
bonobos 113 territory the forest lies: In exchange for a fee, the local people agreed not to hunt or cut trees at Lui Kotale. To get there, you land at another grass air- strip, walk an hour into a village, pay your re- spects to the elders, and then keep walking for five more hours. You cross the Lokoro River in a dugout canoe, wade up a black-water stream, climb a bank, and find yourself in a neat, simple camp of thatched ramadas and tents, with two solar panels to power the computers. Hohmann arrived back at this place, on a June day last year, like a man very glad to be in the forest again after too many months deskbound in Leipzig. He’s a robust 60-year-old, blue-eyed and bony, long conditioned to the steeplechase rigors of field primatology, and if I hadn’t been pushing to stay at his heels, the six-hour hike would have taken me seven. One morning I rose with the early crew, two lean young volunteers named Tim Lewis-Bale and Sonja Trautmann. We reached the bonobo nests at 5:20 a.m., before the drowsy animals began to stir. Their first act of the morning: a good piss. Lewis-Bale and Trautmann each stood beneath a nest tree, catching urine in a leaf. They pipetted this harvest into small vials, recorded the identity of each pisser, and then we were off on our morning chase. That afternoon Hohmann and I sat beneath one of the thatch roofs discussing bonobo behavior. Few other researchers have seen bonobos in the act of predation, and those few reports generally involve small prey such as anomalures (only at Wamba) or baby duikers. Animal protein, insofar as bonobos get any, had seemed to come mainly from insects and millipedes. But Fruth and Hohmann reported nine cases of hunting by bonobos at Lomako, seven of which involved sizable duikers, usu- ally grabbed by one bonobo, ripped apart at the belly while still alive, with the entrails eaten first, and the meat shared. More recently, here at Lui Kotale, they have seen another 21 successful predations, among which eight of the victims were mature duikers, one was a bush baby, and privileged by circumstance to be free of gorilla competition. Bonobo youngsters such as Zizu, here playing with a sibling, are born black-faced, unlike chimps, which are born with pink faces that gradually darken. Bonobo limbs remain slender as they mature, not so thick and burly as chimps.