We love sharing updates with you on the research program in the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, and we especially love it when we get to share news of a brand new bonobo baby. We are absolutely over the moon to report that there have been not one, not two, but THREE new additions to the Kokoalongo bonobo group this summer!
Elliot gave birth on June 7th, Madonna on June 14th, and Adele on June 26th. The mothers and their infants are all doing well. No names have been chosen because researchers don't yet know the sexes of the babies. The scientists take great care to give new mothers and their offspring adequate space and privacy to bond without stress or interruption. You can be sure, though, that the babies will be named after famous musicians, like all the members of their group.
You might have noticed that we listed the mothers but not the fathers. Because of the bonobos' social structure and mating habits, it is nearly impossible to establish paternity without DNA analysis. In June, members of the research team published a fascinating article titled "Reproductive inequality among males in the genus Pan." Lead authors Maud Mouginot and Leveda Cheng found that, despite the generally more egalitarian and peaceful attitude of bonobos, certain males were far more reproductively successful than others. One bonobo in particular, Noir from the Ekalakala group, has sired babies in all the bonobo groups currently being studied in the Yetee forest of Kokolopori.
An interesting discovery is that the most successful males had their mothers living in the same group. The exact mechanism of maternal influence on male reproduction has not been determined, but there are some intriguing possibilities. Bonobos are matriarchal and female-dominant, and so there are multiple ways that mothers may be skewing results in favor of their sons. Mothers may be directly discouraging their sons' competitors, or—because female relationships are the backbone of bonobo society—mothers may be helping sons through their own social status and alliances. It has been previously observed that sons of ranking females tend to be the ranking males of the group, so we know that mothers influence the social lives of their sons. Having an actively involved mother may give males greater access to reproductive females. Whatever the mechanism, it seems clear that it pays to be a mama's boy if you're a bonobo!
Please stay tuned for more updates about the new arrivals. We'll share names and more photos as soon as we can! Thank you for helping us protect the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve so that these babies and their families can thrive.