Get Started Here!

Sorta Random Sunday: Bonobos

This one is going to seem really out of left field. Even for my Sorta Random Sunday posts. But it’s actually been on my list of topics for awhile. It’s also a big interest of mine. Of course, we are talking about bonobos!

What are bonobos?

Nope, not the clothing company.

Bonobos are apes. Along with chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and humans, they are the fifth species of ape. However, they weren’t elevated to species status until the 1930s. For a long time, we just thought they were pygmy chimpanzees. But they are a very unique species, with notable differences from chimpanzees.


They live in the Congo basin. They are endangered. And, like chimpanzees, they seem to have split from a common ancestor with humans about 8 million years ago.

How they came into my life

It’s random.

In my final semester of senior year of college at Emory University, I only needed to take like 1 more class to graduate. So I ended up taking a couple of courses as Pass/Fail. Just for fun.

A guy named Frans de Waal taught the course. It turns out, he is like the world’s foremost authority on primates, and bonobos in particular. Emory University was the home of the Yerkes Primate Research Center. That is also where I happened to do some lab work for 3 years (working on Hepatitis C research in mice, not with primates). Regardless, this major research center had attracted Dr. de Waal to Atlanta.

I’ve always loved animals (who doesn’t) but this class enthralled me. I loved it. I loved learning about primates and what it taught us about human behavior.

Aside from medicine, primatology is the only other thing I could ever see myself doing. It’s what I would do if I weren’t a doctor.

Why are bonobos important?

Aside from being smart, caring, and social animals, bonobos are an important link to us, as humans.

Before studying bonobos, chimpanzees were the closest relative to humans that we knew about. And we studied their behavior to learn something about ourselves and how our societies work. And a lot of this is helpful and the work continues today.

However, chimpanzees tend to be very male-dominated, hierarchical, warring, and political. Just like our society. And so this was largely taken as evidence that these were our baseline characteristics. For better or worse.

But then bonobos came along…

And they were quite different.

In broad strokes, bonobos are more altruistic, female-led, sexual, sensitive, and peace-seeking compared to chimpanzees. They even engage in same sex relationships.

All of a sudden, we had a very different lens with which to view our own behavior. (Of course, some people didn’t like what this said about ourselves. But that is besides the point.)

And this is really fun and interesting for me and many others.

My one great goal

I have never seen a bonobo. Obviously I’ve seen chimpanzees at zoos. But the most fun time I got to see them was at the large chimpanzee village hidden in suburban Atlanta as a file research center for Yerkes. Gorillas and orangutans as well. And I’ve seen far too many humans…

But never a bonobo.

A few zoos have them including San Diego and Cincinnati on my last check. But what I really want is to see some in the wild. I know this is a long shot due to their habitat destruction and diminishing populations.

But it’s something I would love to do. It would be my equivalent of Selenid’s most intentional spend!

And that’s what I got! If you would like to learn more, Dr. de Waal wrote an absolutely fantastic and easy-to-read book called Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape that I highly recommend.

And if you want some personal finance topics for your Sunday, check out these favorite posts of mine!

What do you think? Ever heard of bonobos?! What do you think about them? Let me know in the comments below!

Love the blog? We have a bunch of ways for you to customize how you follow us!

Join the Prudent Plastic Surgeon Network

And accelerate your path to financial freedom with my free FIRE calculator!

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Join The Prudent Plastic Surgeon Facebook group to interact with like-minded professional seeking financial well-being

    The Prudent Plastic Surgeon

    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    Leave a Comment