Bonobo Conservation Initiative > Bonobos > What do Bonobos Sound Like?

What do Bonobos Sound Like?

Calling; Photo Credit: Frans Lanting

Bonobos are the most vocal of the great apes, using their voices extensively to express themselves and to communicate with others. Bonobo voices tend to be relatively high-pitched and melodic, in contrast to the lower and more guttural “pant hoots” of chimpanzees. There is not just one signature bonobo sound; they have a variety of different vocalizations for different situations. Listen to these examples of typical bonobo calls:

High hoot
Hoot; Photo Credit: Frans LantingThe high hoot or “waah” is a very common call used for both short- and long-distance communication. It can be used to communicate between feeding parties, to call bonobos that have been separated, or to signal that they have found something good to eat.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Food calls
Eating; Photo Credit: Sally Jewell CoxeThere are around five different types of food calls that bonobos combine into long sequences, expressing their satisfaction about what they are eating. These food calls often attract other bonobos to join them at the food patch. The more they like the food, the higher-pitched their squeals of delight become, as if to say, “mmm, this tastes good!”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Travel calls
Travelling; Photo Credit: Christian Ziegler, National GeographicBonobos make these characteristic little peeps while traveling. Groups of bonobos separate into smaller parties during the day to forage for food. These calls help keep the party together, and ensure that no one gets lost or left behind.  Bonobos sometimes walk bipedally (on two legs), like humans do.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Alarm and alert
Alarm; Photo Credit: Jeffrey OonkWatch out! Bonobos make these alarm calls when they are frightened by potentially dangerous events. A loud noise, such as a tree falling in the forest, or a scary animal, like a snake, can trigger an alarm call. Bonobos may also make these calls when observing or participating in a fight.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Threat barks and anger calls
Bonobo; Photo Credit: Russell A. MittermeierDuring little disputes, sometimes the aggressor or an onlooker will make these shrill barks to signal discontent. Bonobos may also make these noises if they feel another bonobo is too close or is doing something to bother them.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Conflict screams
Bonobo Calling; Photo Credit: Christian Ziegler, National GeographicThese are the screams of bonobos after a fight. There are different screams based on the severity of the conflict. There are also tantrum screams, given by young individuals. Bonobos tend to be rather sensitive, so they sometimes react loudly to relatively minor situations.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Male contest hoots
Leaning; Photo Credit: Karl AmmanMales use this vocalization to demonstrate their force and to show off to other individuals. While using this call, it is common for a male to drag a branch or shake a tree to make himself seem impressive.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Laughter
Laughing; Photo Credit: Sally Jewell CoxeJust like humans, bonobos laugh when they are enjoying themselves. They laugh when they play, and they also laugh when they are tickled!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Recordings and descriptions provided by Zanna Clay, PhD

About Us  |  Programs  |  Bonobos  |  News & Knowledge  |  Take Action  |  Contact Us  |  Sitemap