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Report on SAGA2/COE Symposium

Present and future bonobo (Pan paniscus) research at the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (Belgium)

Van Elsacker, L.; Aerts, P.; Dupain, J.; Meuleman, B.; Sannen, A. & Vervaecke, H.
Rzsa, K. Astridplein 26 B-2018 Antwerp, Belgium UIA, Universiteitsplein 1 B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium

     Our closest living relatives can be found in the genus Pan. Because of their morphological, genetic and behavioural similarities with humans, they have repeatedly served as models for the missing link or protohominid. Although this referential value is disputed, aggressive tendencies in chimpanzees as well as the hippie-image of bonobos are popularly being used to speculate about the roots of human behaviour. However, relatively few quantitative data are available for the bonobo. Hitherto, in the wild only a few groups (i.e. in Wamba and Lomako) have been habituated to a degree allowing individual recognition. Studies on captive groups are useful in clarifying part of the behavioural potential of the species and offer the advantage of "detail". Preferably these groups should be housed so that they mimic the natural social structure and dynamics. Over the past ten years, the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (RZSA), international co-ordinator of the conservation breeding program for the bonobo, has successfully stimulated the participating zoos to fulfil this precondition. The aim of the bonobo research project of the RZSA is to add to the knowledge of the species in an evolutionary perspective by studying it both in situ (research site Iyema, Lomako Forest, Congo) and in several captive groups (eg Planckendael). Current and future research topics relate to social relationships and their underlying physiology (sex and stress hormones) and ecological bases (eg. Vervaecke 1999). Some of the cognitive potentials of bonobos are studied experimentally. Our relatively new project on bipedal locomotion (Aerts et al. submitted) will be elaborated through the study of detailed kinesiology in reference to the evolutionary origin of human bipedalism.

Vervaecke, H. 1999. Dominance relationships, bonding and the female genital swelling cycle in bonobos (Pan paniscus). PhD (compilation of papers) (Univ. Antwerp)
Aerts, P.; Van Damme, R.; Van Elsacker, L. & Duchenne, V. (submitted Amer. J. Phys. Anthropol.). Spatio-temporal gait characteristics of the hind limb cycles during voluntary bipedal and qaudrupedal walking in bonobos (Pan paniscus)


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