BONOBOS are the “hippy chimps,” found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo…in the second largest solid stretch of rainforest in the world. You may not have heard of them before as these GREAT APES (there are only 4 GREAT APES in our world, as seen below…) live in an extremely remote, sparsely populated, war-torn…and least developed part of the world. Compared to thousands of chimpanzees (pink faces) IN CAPTIVITY, there are only about 100 bonobos (dark faces).

Most of the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo face extreme poverty. It might be the richest country in natural resources, but the second poorest country on earth…I saw and felt the desperation firsthand… overwhelming and very real. These photos were made from a car as it was too dangerous to get out and photograph surroundings. The police were a huge street presence and photographing them is against the law…it was tricky photographing…even with my phone…from the car.

Deep in the heart of the hot, wet, Democratic Republic of the Congo rainforest, there lives a tribe of peacemakers…looking like the familiar chimpanzee, but with darker faces, more graceful limbs, a part down the middle of their hair and adorable pink lips.

Before entering the bonobos’ forest home, we visited with the local community’s BATEKE tribal “chef de terre” (land chief) for his consent to enter their forests. In the Malebo area (where we were,) a cultural taboo against bonobo hunting has been documented…to keep them out of the very active local bushmeat market. The locals believe that the critically endangered bonobos are their distant ancestors.

Bonobos are the only great apes that are matriarchal…their troops are ruled by female alliances…and, unlike the chimpanzees, they’re a peaceful society, cooperative and much less aggressive. It’s known that bonobos are the only great apes that reduce tensions in their troops (and between different troops of bonobos) through all kinds of sexual contact… they engage in a variety of sexual activities for comfort, for pleasure and for procreation just like their human counterparts. They prefer to “make love, not war!” Practicing “free love,” they are the original Hippy chimps!


Pre-dawn wake up… we trek a virgin path into the forest,

Our headlamps light our way.

A primatologist, veterinarian, two trackers and us- 3 friends…

(One tracker is already ahead watching and listening…)

An adventure, to be some of the very first “tourists”

To see bonobos in the wild.

Stop… Wait… Listen…

When a sliver of light appears

In the black, night sky,

We hike into the densest part

Of the tropical rainforest.

A tracker chops vines and branches from our faces

And undergrowth from our feet,

While noting our location

and proximity to the bonobos’ night nests.

We follow him blindly, into the unknown…

Suddenly, he stops…

Silently points upward…

The canopy of a single tree…

At least 100 feet away,

Starts to move…slowly…

Then, as if possessed by a gale-force wind…


Unexpectedly, a shape…

Somewhat familiar…

Black as night…

Appears on a single branch:

Lanky, with long, muscular arms,

Enormous hands and fingers,

Bowed legs and a piercing cry…

This, along with the chimpanzee,

Is our closest living relative…

The elusive and rarely seen


Momentarily, a few more bonobos 

Emerge from their nests,

Shrieking and peeping,

Then melt into the nearby foliage.

This bonobo remains…


In the semi-darkness, 

I make my first WILD BONOBO photograph

In the vine-draped Congolese rainforest of Tarzan…

MORE WILD BONOBO PHOTOS…somewhat dark and fuzzy…challenging light!!

Before the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) presented us with the privilege of spending time with the wild bonobos, we spent some up close and personal time at a facility called LOLA YA BONOBO, a rescue, rehabilitate and release facility for bonobos. It’s located just outside of Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital city. Founded by Claudine Andre in 1994, it’s the world’s only lifetime care sanctuary for orphaned bonobos. We spent many hours observing these rescued great apes… our own personal BONOBOVILLE…eating, playing, mating, relaxing…sometimes just inches away from us …in an environment mirroring the wild. They forage for food, compete for mating opportunities and learn to avoid dangers such as stepping on a venomous snake…just as they would in the wild. Below are some photos of these least familiar, most rare great apes for you to enjoy..but first, some final comments…

This trip was exhilarating, exhausting, challenging and educational. My awareness of the need for conservation has been sufficiently aroused. Walking in a rainforest is hard work. But there’s nothing more satisfying than coming back from the forest covered in dirt and twigs…exhausted, but high from the close encounters with the bonobos…and having a shower, even if it’s with cold water from the river that still has some leaves and mud floating in it! Simply having the opportunity to stand in the company of some of nature’s rarest animals…to appreciate the extraordinary gift of experiencing the rainforest in a way that most people never will. It was amazing…

I must thank Steve and Jayne Turner for including me on another one of their mind-expanding adventures. If you dream it, Steve Turner at can make it a reality.

Published by videochick1

I'm a wife, a Mom and a Doodleloo (the name my grandchildren call me.) I'm retired, but have always been a communicator, art and music lover, an adventure traveler, reader and lately, a digital artist. I was a TV producer of documentaries and features for 25 years. Married to my best friend, we just celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary. I had a blog on another platform for 10 years...want to be more mobile so switched to WordPress. Hope you'll join me in my magazine formatted blog. See you soon...

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