New Observations of Meat Eating and Sharing in Wild Bonobos (Pan paniscus) at Iyema, Lomako Forest Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Folia Primatol (Basel). 2019;90(3):179-189. doi: 10.1159/000496026. Epub 2019 Mar 19.


Bonobos (Pan paniscus) consume a variety of vertebrates, although direct observations remain relatively rare compared to chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We report the first direct observations of meat eating and sharing among bonobos at Iyema, Lomako Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo. We collected meat consumption data ad libitum from June to November 2017 over 176.5 observation hours and conducted monthly censuses to measure the abundance of potential prey species. We observed 3 occasions of duiker consumption and found indirect evidence of meat consumption twice (n = 5). We identified the prey species as Weyn's duiker (Cephalophus weynsi) in all 4 cases that we saw the carcass. This species was the most abundant duiker species at Iyema, but other potential prey species were also available. Meat sharing was observed or inferred during all 3 observations. However, the individual controlling the carcass frequently resisted sharing, and aggressive attempts to take the carcass were observed. This report contributes to a growing body of data suggesting that wild bonobos consume meat at higher rates than previously thought, female control of carcasses is frequent but not exclusive, and meat sharing in bonobos is primarily passive but not without aggression.

Keywords: Behavioral diversity; Faunivory; Female control; Food sharing; Prey preference.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Animals
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Meat*
  • Pan paniscus / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics