Although commonly known as the pygmy chimpanzee, this species is often the same size as its close relative - Pan troglodytes - and is also very similar in appearance, though less powerfully built. Similar to the chimpanzee, this species (sometimes regarded as only a sub-species), has longer, thinner legs, a more slender body and a narrow face. Its hair and facial skin are black. Unlike chimpanzees, bonobos have never been observed to use tools in the wild, though in captivity they have been seen to use leaves to clean themselves, and sticks to pole-vault over water.

Bonobos are very social animals, and live in groups of 40 - 120 individuals. These groups move about by day searching for fruiting trees. When a food source is located, individuals make loud calls, probably to alert other members of their group and warn off members of other groups. Members of the group bond by grooming activities and will stare intently at another individual to attract its attention. They can be aggressive, too. In this species, it is the young males that remain in the troop, and the females leave as they mature. Like chimps, bonobos construct temporary nests made from leafy branches, to sleep in at night.

Bonobo societies are much less aggressive than groups of chimps. Serious fighting is rare, and they never make deliberate lethal raids on neighbouring groups. Unlike chimp societies, females have equal ranking with males in bonobo groups, and form the cores of bonobo societies. A curious characteristic of bonobo behaviour is the use of sexual contact to settle arguments or to calm down aggressive situations.

In bonobo groups it is frequently the females that adopt the leadership roles, unlike in chimpanzee societies.

Distribution: Occurs in forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, occupying an area between the Congo and Lualaba rivers, south to the Kasai River.

Habitat: Lowland forests.

Weight: 27 - 61 kg (59.5 - 134 lb); males are larger

Length: 104 - 124 cm (41 - 49 in)

Maturity: 13 - 15 years for both sexes

Gestation Period: About 240 days

Breeding: 1, very rarely twins; weaning occurs at 4 years

Diet: Feeds mainly on fruit but also eats flowers, roots and some invertebrates; may catch duiker and bats

Lifespan: Up to 50 years.

Status: Endangered.


These are large and open at the front of the nose.


This is black and clearly apparent on the cheeks. The skin is also dark in colour.

Hind legs

These are relatively long, with distinctive knees.


This is black and clearly apparent on the cheeks. The skin is also dark in colour.

From feet

Bonobos can walk upright on their back feet, but generally walk on their knuckles as well.

Daily life

Finding food occupies a large amount of the bonobo’s day.


These chimpanzees use basic tools, creating objects such as simple vessels for collecting and drinking water.