Monkeys: The (Other) Other White Meat

"Hippie" apes surprise scientists with what's for dinner

Bonobo Love

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Bonobos, along with chimpanzees and orangutans, are humans' closest genetic relatives, and are frequently studied for clues about the nature of human evolution. These Great Apes are, as it turns out, a lot like us, but a recent study reveals something about bonobos that we'd perhaps rather not know. Often referred to as the "hippie" apes (partially because bonobos have a lot of casual sex . . a perfectly acceptable "Hey, how's it going?" in bonobo-speak), bonobos don't quite live up to the moniker, it appears. German researchers announced on Monday that, far from being peaceniks, bonobos also collectively hunt, and eat, monkeys. It's not just the male bonobos, either; in fact, females serve as the leaders in bonobo society, and are equally involved in the hunts.

Mind, these hunts aren't very frequent. In a study spanning five years, scientists recorded only ten, fewer than half of which were actually successful. And, true to their reputations, the bonobos shared the fruits--sorry, meats--of their labor. This study has produced the first evidence of bonobos eating mammals of substantial size, as well as the first evidence of bonobos intentionally pursuing their prey.

While hunting and eating monkeys may seem to some as conducted in poor taste, bonobos are not actually monkeys themselves. Perhaps, if the "hippie" apes could talk, they'd urge us humans, as fellow hominids, to expand our limited ideas about what (or who?) it's "okay" to hunt and devour. But then, it's probably in their best interest that they stay quiet on that score.