Researchers learning about ‘peace’ through bonobo study

December 06, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

UKI, Kumamoto Prefecture--An animal research facility is studying the peaceful nature of bonobos to find clues about how human societies survived.

The Kumamoto Sanctuary, run by Kyoto University’s Wild Research Center, showed the four bonobos to reporters on Dec. 3 to mark the start of the project.

Bonobos are believed to be genetically closest to humans, along with chimpanzees, and are known for their peaceful and accommodating nature. Unlike male-dominated chimpanzee societies, female bonobos have the higher status in their groupings.

“We want to search for the origin of human nature,” said Satoshi Hirata, a professor at the Wild Research Center. “(In doing so) we will be able to learn about the peaceful existence among peoples in society.”

Researchers plan to teach the bonobos how to recognize numbers by using computer touchscreens. The training sessions will not be open to the public.

The bonobos are an 18-year-old male and three females between 22 and 31 years old. They were sent from the United States.

According to the center, wild bonobos inhabit only the tropical rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are designated an endangered species.

In Japan, a bonobo was raised at the Japan Monkey Center in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, until it was sent to the United States in 1996.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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A bonobo eats in front of reporters on Nov. 3 at the Wild Research Center of Kyoto University in Uki, Kumamoto Prefecture. (Shoma Fujiwaki)

A bonobo eats in front of reporters on Nov. 3 at the Wild Research Center of Kyoto University in Uki, Kumamoto Prefecture. (Shoma Fujiwaki)

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  • A bonobo eats in front of reporters on Nov. 3 at the Wild Research Center of Kyoto University in Uki, Kumamoto Prefecture. (Shoma Fujiwaki)
  • A bonobo is given a pipe filed with food on Nov. 3 at the Wild Research Center of Kyoto University in Uki, Kumamoto Prefecture. (Shoma Fujiwaki)

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