Pan paniscus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Pan paniscus
Species Authority: Schwarz, 1929
Common Name(s):
English Bonobo, Pygmy Chimpanzee, Gracile Chimpanzee, Dwarf Chimpanzee
French Chimpanzé Nain, Chimpanzé pygmée
Spanish Chimpancé Pigmeo
Taxonomic Notes: It is possible that the southeastern montane population could be a distinct species (marungensis).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Fruth, B., Benishay, J.M., Bila-Isia, I., Coxe, S., Dupain, J., Furuichi, T., Hart, J., Hart, T., Hashimoto, C., Hohmann, G., Hurley, M., Ilambu, O., Mulavwa, M., Ndunda, M., Omasombo, V., Reinartz, G., Scherlis, J., Steel, L. & Thompson, J.
Reviewer(s): Mittermeier, R.A. & Williamson, E.A. (Primate Red List Authority)
Due to high levels of exploitation and loss of habitat and habitat quality due to expanding human activities, this species is estimated to have experienced a significant population reduction in the past 20 to 30 years (one generation is estimated to be 25 years; Myers Thompson 1997, Furuichi and Hashimoto 2003, T. Furuichi pers. comm. 2007) and it is thought that this reduction will continue for the next 45 to 55 years. The maximum population decline over a three-generation (i.e., 75 year) period from the 1970s to 2045 is thought to exceed 50%, hence qualifying this taxon for Endangered under criterion A4. The causes of the reduction, although largely understood, have certainly not ceased and are not easily reversible. The suspected future survival of bonobos will be determined by the rapidly increasing human population density in the region and the high degree of political instability in the range states.
2007 Endangered
2000 Endangered
1996 Endangered
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The bonobo has a discontinuous range in the low-lying central Congo Basin of Equatorial Africa, south of the Congo River. Their range extends from the Lualaba River in the East, to the Kasai/Sankuru Rivers in the South, and to the west as far as to the Bolobo village and around the Lake Tumba/Lac Ndombe area. Although the extent of their potential range is estimated at approximately 500,000 km² (Thompson et al. 2003), recent evidence of previously unsurveyed areas has detected bonobo presence throughout their historical area of distribution. Bonobos occur in small populations whose gene flow is determined by riverine barriers. Due to the bonobos’ dispersal patterns, the effective population size of males is smaller than that of females. Analyses of population genetics suggest that bonobo populations have a stable population history (Eriksson et al. 1999, 2004). Despite new surveys by various NGOs, the southern part of the Congo Basin, including the area south of the Kasai River, has not been surveyed.
Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: From studies based on nest counts along standardized line transects, population densities have been calculated for a number of areas (see Table 1).

Follow the link below for Table 1: population densities for Pan paniscus.

There are no substantive data concerning total numbers, although speculative estimates give numbers for a total population size between 29,500 (Myers Thompson 1997) and 50,000 (Dupain and Van Elsacker 2001). Recent surveys indicate that these numbers may still be underestimates. In any case, any number indicating total population size should be considered with the highest caution.
For further information about this species, see 15932_Pan_paniscus.pdf.
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Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The entire range of bonobo distribution is characterized by moderate variations in elevation (300 to 700 m). They inhabit a mosaic of primary and secondary forests, as well as seasonally inundated swamp forests, with a humid, stable climate. A single bonobo community (usually 30 to 80 individuals) occupies a home-range of 20 to 60 km² of forest, with extensive overlap between community ranges resulting in small core areas. Over 50% of their diet is comprised of fruits and seeds, with leaves, flowers, and piths, some of which provide considerable amounts of protein and other nutrients (Hohmann et al. 2006). Animal proteins deriving from both vertebrate (e.g., duikers) and invertebrate prey (e.g., termites, caterpillars) are also ingested. Nests are built in trees at heights between 5 and 50 m (Fruth 1995). Both habitat and nesting preferences are pronounced, and ground nests have been reported (Reinartz et al. 2006).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The collective threats impacting the wild bonobo population today include: commercial poaching (for bushmeat, pets or medicinal purpose); residue of civil warfare (military sanctioned hunting, availability of modern weaponry and ammunition); human population changes (growth and movement); habitat alteration (commercial logging and agriculture, traditional slash-and-burn agriculture, increase of fallow land); and lack of education (insufficient awareness among certain urban and rural populations, and national politicians).

Commercial poaching has to be considered the most prominent threat. In some areas local taboos against bonobo hunting still exist, in others they are disintegrating due to changing cultural values associated with transient and immigrant human populations. Although commercial hunting is targeted at large-bodied ungulates and monkeys, the growing predominance of bushmeat commerce as an income-generating activity has led to increases in the number of commercial bushmeat hunters. These hunters, aided by military and local administration, are active in all areas, including those with legally protected status such as Salonga National Park. The importance of Salonga National Park as a significant reservoir of bonobos will be rapidly compromised if current hunting trends continue. Between 2003 and 2006, Hart et al. (2007) recorded evidence of hunting across the park in 51% of survey grids. Hunting pressure was considered to be high in the north and east of the park, and bonobo mortalities as a direct consequence of hunting were recorded. Bonobos are slow-breeding and thus particularly susceptible to loss caused directly by poaching or indirectly by snaring.

Infectious diseases are yet to be quantified but are undoubtedly an important threat to wild bonobo populations, and of particular concern in areas where bonobos live side-by-side with humans. The risk of transmission increases with increasing human population density as well as increasing proximity with wildlife.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Until recently, the only protected area harbouring bonobos was the 33,346 km² Salonga National Park (ICCN 2006). Although legally protected, law enforcement in the DRC is negligible, and conservation efforts are hampered by corruption, isolation as well as persistent political and economic instability. The only active and permanent presence on the ground is assured by NGOs and research projects. NGOs are working to strengthen ICCN’s limited capacity in Salonga National Park. Elsewhere, NGOs are using participatory approaches to guide local communities towards the sustainable use of natural resources for long-term conservation.

In the context of the Congo Basin (Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) 2005), an international project for the protection of forests, DRC possesses three landscapes important for bonobo conservation: Lac Tele-Lac Tumba Landscape (Congo and DRC); Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape (DRC); and Salonga-Lukenie-Sankuru Landscape (DRC).

Within these landscapes are areas with established protection status such as Salonga National Park (since 1970) and Luo Scientific Reserve (since 1990). However, significant portions of bonobo habitat such as the Lomami-Lualaba and the Lomela-Sankuru areas are not included in the landscapes defined by CBFP.

Due to the combined efforts of the ICCN (DRC’s national conservation authority) and international NGOs, two additional areas obtained official protected status in 2006: Faunal Reserve of Lomako-Yokokala (RFLY) (Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape), and Tumba-Lediima Natural Reserve (RTL) (Lac Tele-Lac Tumba Landscape). Others are under consideration and protected only by local commitments: Yasa-Bososandja wildlife sanctuary (1998) (Myers Thompson 2001), and Kokolopori (reserve to be gazetted in 2007) (BCI 2007).

Although these areas still harbour sizeable numbers of bonobos, the threats cited above put all populations at risk irrespective of the conservation status of the area. Conservation education programmes are essential to help curb poaching and illegal trade, not only in areas adjacent to wild populations but also in urban centres such as Kinshasa or Kisangani, where the demand for bushmeat and pets is generated. Lola Ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for confiscated bonobos in Kinshasa, welcomes 15,000 visitors per annum, half of which are school children, who can influence local attitudes (ABC 2006).

In sum, for effective protection of bonobos, commercial hunting must be halted, intensification rather than expansion of local agriculture must be supported, and local industries must be actively persuaded to support rather than subvert conservation. Additional surveys are needed to better determine the species’ overall distribution and abundance.

Despite the fact that bonobos breed well in captivity, and captive propagation programmes exist in North American and European zoos, only conservation measures in situ can be considered useful attempts to contribute to the species’ survival in the wild.

It is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Citation: Fruth, B., Benishay, J.M., Bila-Isia, I., Coxe, S., Dupain, J., Furuichi, T., Hart, J., Hart, T., Hashimoto, C., Hohmann, G., Hurley, M., Ilambu, O., Mulavwa, M., Ndunda, M., Omasombo, V., Reinartz, G., Scherlis, J., Steel, L. & Thompson, J. 2008. Pan paniscus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 19 December 2014.
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