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on 8 May 2008
De Waal's words and Lanting's photographs are a great combination. The high production values are more than justified by the quality of the text. In bringing bonobos to wider attention this book provides a valuable service. The sound research credentials of de Waal add weight to the analysis and, far from making it a dull book, give it an exciting relevance to wider issues in primatology. Makes you think a lot about humans as well as about bonobos and can, I imagine, start a good few dinner party arguments about gender relations. Much better that than another discussion of house prices.
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on 11 November 1998
Bonobos--who are, with chimps, our closest relatives--use sex instead of agression and dominance to resolve conflicts. That alone would make this book worth reading, but bonobos have many other intriguing qualities. It's rare to find a book as well-written, cogently argued and full of facts as this one. It's equally rare to find a book as beautifully photographed and designed. To have the two together in one volume is something of a miracle. HIGHLY recommended.
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on 7 January 1999
Bonobos--who are, with chimps, our closest relatives--use sex instead of agression and dominance to resolve conflicts. That alone would make this book worth reading, but bonobos have many other intriguing qualities. It's rare to find a book as well-written, cogently argued and full of facts as this one. It's equally rare to find a book as beautifully photographed and designed. To have the two together in one volume is something of a miracle. HIGHLY recommended.
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on 5 December 2010
Who could imagine that there are gentle apes living in the very heart of darkness, north-central Congo-Kinshasa, somewhere around Colonel Kurtz' proverbial hunting grounds? :-)

"Bonobo. The Forgotten Ape" is a popularized book about the least known great ape. The bonobo wasn't officially discovered by science until 1929. There had been bonobos in captivity before that time, but scientists assumed they were chimpanzees, albeit very gentle and very smart ones! For a long time, the bonobo was mostly studied by German scientists who published their findings in obscure journals such as "Säugetierkundliche Mitteilungen". The Anglo-Saxon scientific community didn't pay much attention until the 1970's and 1980's, and even then, much of the research was carried out by Japanese scientists, rather than Westerners. To the general public, bonobos are probably still quite unknown. I heard of bonobos already as a kid, but I assumed they were simply a smaller subspecies of chimp. Back then, bonobos were known as "Pygmy Chimpanzees". Curiously, the myth of the killer ape never reached my neighbourhood, so I grew up assuming that chimps were peaceful. They are not. Bonobos, however, are. Which finally brings us to the reason why these apes are so interesting!

Bonobos and chimpanzees are closely related, and both of them are equally close to humans. Yet, the two species are very different. To simplify somewhat, chimpanzees are patriarchal, aggressive, heterosexual and carnivorous. Bonobos, by contrast, are matriarchal, peaceful, bisexual and near-vegan! Politically correct apes? Who ever heard of such a thing? Since both chimps and bonobos are equally closely related to humans, this makes it harder to claim that humans are necessarily patriarchal or aggressive "by nature". Indeed, some scientists believe that "the missing link" may have more closely resembled a bonobo than a chimp. While none of this proves much in and of itself, it's nevertheless intriguing. Of course, the trait bonobos are mostly known for, is that they have sex for non-reproductive reasons, including "gay" and "lesbian" sex. Unfortunately, they also practice paedophilia.

"Bonobo. The Forgotten Ape" contains seven chapters summarizing the bonobo basics. It contains interviews with scientists studying the bonobos, both those living in the jungles of the Congo, and those preferring the relative safety of American zoos. The text is easy to read, but could perhaps have been better written or edited. (Yes, I'm a perfectionist, and Frans de Waal's books, although interesting, tend to fall short of my splendidly high standards.)

The best part of the book are Frans Lanting's full-color photos. Since the book is almost coffee table format, this makes it a worthwhile buy for every nature-lover, photo-lover or ape-lover, including those too busy to read the text! The most exciting photos are those showing the bonobos in almost erect position, standing on two legs. In bipedal position, the bonobos look almost human, especially the females.

You get the feeling that they are us, and that we are indeed the third chimpanzee. Or the second bonobo...
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on 18 April 2016
I love this book.
It's very well written, beautiful printed, nice to read
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on 15 January 2015
18 year old daughter loves this book. It was bought as a Christmas gift.
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on 9 December 2004
Well, what can I say. This book is truely captivating! I am not a person who always finds non-fiction books easy to read, but this book is written clearly, without poncy scientific jargon. The pictures in the book are also extremely good and there are plenty of them, which is always good for breaking up dense text. HOwever, I would like to re-iterate the words of the reviewer above; this book is very sex focused and at times quite graphic!!! Perhaps not a book to read while eating you dinner!
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on 14 October 2014
Excellent book.
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on 23 May 1999
This is a very beautiful book about the bonobo primates. I bought it for my 7 year-old grandson but his father thought we should wait two or three years before the boy saw the explicit photos of bonobo courtship and related practices. After looking more closely, I think he is right.
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