Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Bonobo Handshake

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Bonobo Handshake

A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo

By Vanessa Woods

Bonobo Handshake
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  • Hardcover: May 2010,
    278 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2011,
    288 pages.

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Beyond the Book

Vanessa Woods with bonobos in a wildlife sanctuary
in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sydney Morning Herald

Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are one of the two species that make up the genus Pan, along with Pan troglodytes, the Common Chimpanzee. Chimps and bonobos are the closest extant relative to humans, sharing almost 99% of our DNA. They are also the least known of the great apes (which in addition to bonobos includes chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas), and remained unidentified as a separate species until 1933.

Bonobos are sometimes referred to as pygmy chimpanzees, but this is a misnomer, as on average they weigh the same or only slightly less than common chimpanzees (approximately 85 pounds for males and 68 pounds for females). Their bodies are proportioned quite differently, with a lower center of gravity, longer limbs, and a smaller head. The difference in their anatomy allows them to stand more erect than chimps, walking upright up to 25% of ...

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