Bonobos - our unknown cousins
Nature, third prize stories
Salonga National Park, Lui Kotale, Democratic Republic of Congo
A young female bonobo rests after a large meal. Her lips are colored orange by mud she has eaten to counteract toxins in unripe fruit she consumed.
Bonobos, along with chimpanzees, are our closest living relatives. They are also among the least-studied of primates. Unlike chimpanzees, who are territorial and combative, bonobos are relatively peaceful creatures, and appear to use sex as a means of social communication. Sex, for bonobos, is not restricted to male-female copulation during the female’s fertile period, but includes various gender combinations, and occurs in a variety of situations, including greeting, relieving tension, and as an expression of reconciliation.
for National Geographic magazine
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About the photographer
Christian Ziegler is a photojournalist specializing in natural history and science-related topics. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and has been widely published in other magazines such as Geo, Smithsonian, and BBC Wildlife. A tropical ecologist by training, Ziegler has worked in tropical rainforests on four continents, and for the past ten years has been an associate for communication with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.
Ziegler photographed A Magic Web, a photography book on tropical ecology on assignment for STRI, and Deceptive Beauties, a book about wild orchids. He is a founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, for which he volunteers assignments every year. Ziegler’s work has been awarded prizes in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions, and in 2008, he was honored with the Vision Award by the North American Nature Photography Association. Ziegler lives on the edge of a rainforest national park in central Panama and is working on several magazine articles and book projects, as well as a biodiversity museum.