Alchemical Principle: In all thy operations be guided by nature and perform thy operations using the true and not fantastical imaginations.
The little known Bonobo apes are one of the most intriguing members of our planetary family (we share 98% of our DNA with them and the Chimpanzees) and give us a great picture of the planetary secrets of a matriarchal society while the much better known chimpanzees offer an example of patriarchy.
Bonobos are only found in a very remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in one of the oldest and richest rain forests of the world, and have been caught in the cross-fire of a starving population becoming casualties of war. We have only recently started to study them (70's) because of the politically unstable and dangerous conditions of the Congo for the researchers. A few brave researchers including Frances White, from Oregon University, have made the slow and arduous study of these endangered apes, unlocking many applicable insights and answers for us human animals. Bonobos are considered by some scientists to be a separate species of ape and not a chimp at all.
Chimpanzees, who exist in a patriarchal society, are found in Africa and have taken the limelights with their excitability and violent temperament. The males hold all the power, band together and hunt down and kill neighboring bands of chimps in bloody and brutal confrontations. From the female point of view, chimp patriarchy is horribly brutal as the males have to dominate all the females and they are regularly beaten up. Male chimps are so agressive that they kill their young. Chimps only have different degrees of hostility.
When male Bonobos meet other bands they also display territorial postures of power at each other. The difference is that while the males are facing off the females of both bands get together, groom each other, share a meal, ignore the males till they finally give up and join together.
Sisterhood is power as they are in charge of the food. Food is also handled differently by the females as they look for food together and the females decide how it is shared once they find it. The females share food with each other strengthening their bonds. The females always eat first. Individually the males, being bigger and stronger, might want to muscle in but the females stand united and the males remain under their collective thumb. Males also do not rely on each other for support and lack the powerful alliances that give male chimps the upper hand.
Bonobos live in a very rich food habitat leaving them with plenty of food and time to bond. Chimps live where less food is available and the dominant males eat it leaving the females alone searching for food, not bonding with each other and making them more vulnerable to males' brutality.
Baby Bonobos are nursed for 5 years, having a long extended childhood to learn about their world. A male Bonobo stays by his mother's side for much of his life. Sons of very high ranking females get a very high social status so they hang around their old mothers until she dies. When she dies his status goes down.
They depend on their mother no matter how old and without her males have very little influence.
Bonobos also hold a very interesting habit that I also observed in my study of the Peregrine Falcons. The also have disputes but avoid violence by having very frequent sex. The females have sex no matter what part of their cycle they are in and not only for procreation. They use sex as a greeting, for reconciliation, etc and used in all kinds of combinations. Sex is quick, often 8 times a day and lasts only 10 seconds. This has a huge impact on their lives as intimacy makes it hard to stay angry! It might be the secret of their gentle nature. Since they have multiple partners and no male knows which infant is his, fatherhood is impossible to determine so they don't kill their young.
Bonobos are said to be the most caring of all apes and researchers observe that they are more sensitive, sensual and have a higher emotional awareness than most primates.
There is much we can learn from these intriguing members of our planetary family as we co-create our lives with the dreaming Sophia, our PAM (Planetary Animal Mother)
Animal Talks from Coco de Mer