(Nature in Danger is a new series of short pieces detailing wildlife and plants from around the world that are listed as threatened or endangered.)

By B.C. Riley
Green Right Now

Bonobos are threatened by habitat loss and poaching in Central Africa. (Photo: Lee Poston, WWF.)

Pan paniscus, otherwise known as bonobos, gracile chimpanzees, or pygmy chimpanzees, are an endangered species of the family Hominidae (great apes). Residing mainly in their native habitat in the lush rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, these peace-loving creatures are truly captivating.

The number of bonobos is estimated to be somewhere between 29,500 and 50,000, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, they continue to suffer from commercial poaching and habitat destruction, as well as disease in areas where they live near humans, according to the World Wildlife Fund and other sources.

Facts about bonobos:

  • The name Pan paniscus was inspired by the Greek god Pan, god of nature, the woods, shepherds and flocks, and the wild.
  •  Bonobos crawl on their knuckles part of the time, but other times they can be seen walking upright like humans; they also have a more slender body that closely resembles a human’s.
  •  Though they have been called pygmy chimpanzees, they are only slightly smaller than other chimps
  •  Bonobos have higher pitched voices and thinner bodies than chimps.
  •  We humans share 98% of our genetic material with bonobos.
  • Male bonobos attract mates by dragging a branch behind themselves while running.

Bonobos (Photo: Martin Harvey, WWF/Canon)

NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and the Congolese Wildlife Authority, have been working to protect the precious habitat of the bonobo. To learn more about bonobos and how you can help, visit the Bonobo Conservation Initiative’s website.

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