‘Bonobos’: The Friendly Apes That Would Help Strangers Without Being Asked

Helping strangers could be significant, but unexpected and unique to humans sometimes. However, this act of kindness is not surprising to the well-known friendly apes from Africa’s Congo Basin, according to a new study. What is so impressive with the Bonobos as shown in the study is that they help without having to be asked first.

The new research was published in the Scientific Journal on Nov. 7. The new experiment was led by Jingzhi Tan, a postdoctoral associate in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and Brian Hare, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and other colleagues, according to Phys.org.

In the past experiment, the researchers discovered that Bonobos shared their food with strangers. In the new study, the team discovered that the Bonobos will help a stranger get food, even though there is no reparation.

Tan said that one of the most puzzling human behaviors to understand is the origin of altruism. He further said that there is this long-held belief that humans helping strangers must be altruistic and this is unique to humans, as noted by the Newsweek.

In the new study, the researchers examine the wild-born bonobos at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The team placed sixteen bonobos into one of two adjacent rooms separated by a fence. Then, they hang a piece of the apple above the empty room, which was visible, yet could not be reached by the apes.

Bonobos share their food and help strangers without being asked.
Bonobos, friendly apes from Africa’s Congo basin could be altruistic in some ways. [Image by Andreygudkov/Thinkstock]

On the other hand, if they climbed the fence they could reach the wooden pin that holds the rope and releases the fruit, which could drop when any bonobo could enter the room. The researchers found that bonobos in the room that could reach the pin released the fruit roughly four times when an unfamiliar bonobo entered the room with the fruit. They did this without getting extra food for them.

In addition to their kindness, the bonobos did not wait to be asked for help, they just did it. In the course of study, no bonobos were deprived of food.

Tan said that the thought of being nice to strangers is likely to evolve in species where the benefits of bonding with outsiders outweigh the costs. Probably, the bonobos, just like humans, want to make a good first impression or it is really their nature to be kind.

[Featured Image by USO/Thinkstock]