Sioux Falls Zoologists

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!"

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass the mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training. (Sorry Kitty!)

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Bonobo Handshake for
revealing a society of apes run by the females where sex,
rather than violence, is the medium of exchange.

Bonobo Handshake
A memoir of love and adventure in the Congo
By Vanessa Woods

Bonobo Handshake (2010) - 278 pages
Bonobo Handshake at Amazon.com

Imagine a relative who thinks sex is like a handshake. Who organizes orgies with the neighbors, doesn't mind if their partner sleeps around, and firmly believes females should be in charge of everything. Now imagine there was a whole tribe of these relatives - crazy, right? But definitely a lot of fun.

Compared to chimps we know hardly anything about bonobos. They are an extremely endangered ape and share 98.7 percent of our DNA. But while chimpanzees live in male-dominated societies with sexual coercion, infanticide, and war, bonobos are peaceful and female dominated; there is no infanticide or war, and sex is used to resolve conflict.

The question is, how much of us is chimpanzee, how much is bonobo?

Bonobo Handshake is the memoir of Vanessa Wood's journey to answer these questions. In 2005, she agreed to marry a handsome primatologist who was on the hunt for the answer to the greatest question of all time: What makes us human? Her fiance, Brian Hare, freshly armed with a Ph.D. from Harvard, believed the answer was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with a jungle three times the size of France, and in an ongoing war. Brian was on a quest to study bonobos, and bonobos only live in the Congo.

Vanessa goes to live with him at Lola Ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for orphan bonobos in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. The parents of the bonobos were killed by the bushmeat trade and the orphans were sold as pets before they were rescued. Some of them were tortured, with fingers and toes cut off for use in black magic. Others were raised like children in the homes of well-meaning but deluded expatriates. The sanctuary is also full of human refugees searching for respite from a conflict that killed more than five million people. There Vanessa finds herself - with no job and no identity, except as Dr. Hare's wife - trying to turn a fling into a marriage and make sense of the suffering she witnesses. As it becomes clear that the bonobos are wary of men, Vanessa must run all of the experiments, and as she develops deep bonds with the bonobos, she also finds herself deeply in love with her husband and her new surroundings.

Bonobo Handshake is a memoir of science, adventure, love, and finding inspiration where you least expect it. It's about the similarities and extraordinary courage of people and animals and their will to survive. At times heartbreaking and humorous and always intelligent, it is also about a young woman finding her own path as a writer and scientist.

Vanessa Woods is a research scientist, journalist, and author. A member of the Hominoid Psychology Research Group, she works at Duke University as well as Lola Ya Bonobo in Congo. She is also a feature writer for the Discovery Channel, and her writing has appeared in publications such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa. Her first book, It's Every Monkey for Themselves, was published in Australia in 2007. Woods lives in North Carolina with her husband, scientist Brian Hare. Ten percent of the profits of this book will be going to Lola Ya Bonobo.

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Bonobo Handshake
A memoir of love and adventure in the Congo
By Vanessa Woods

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Bonobo Handshake for
revealing a society of apes run by the females where sex,
rather than violence, is the medium of exchange.