Saving Endangered Bonobos Teaches A Lesson In Empathy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flipboard
  • Email

April 3, 20217:05 AM ET

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/04/03/983473068/saving-endangered-bonobos-teaches-a-lesson-in-empathy

JON HAMILTON

A trio of young bonobos play under the watchful eyes of their caregivers..Ley Uwera for NPR

At an animal sanctuary in the Congo, several dozen Congolese schoolchildren are getting a crash course in bonobos.

These gentle, endangered apes, who resemble chimpanzees, are “our closest cousins,” educator Blaise Mbwaki tells the students in French. “They have a human character, and they are Congolese.”

“So if you eat a bonobo,” Mbwaki says, “you are eating your cousin. It is cannibalism.”

It’s a blunt message. But Mbwaki and other staff here at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary think it may offer the best hope of saving this species from extinction.

Only about 20,000 wild bonobos are left, and they are found only in the central rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. So the staff at Lola are working to engage Congolese students in efforts to protect the bonobos that remain.

Bonobos share nearly 99% of their DNA with humans. And studies of the animals at Lola are helping scientists understand how humans evolved traits like empathy.

But humans haven’t shown much empathy for bonobos. As a species, we’ve hunted them for food, sold their babies as pets, and spoiled much of their natural habitat.

A male bonobo at Lola yo Bonobo sanctuary. Only about 20,000 wild bonobos are left, and they are found only in the central rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.Ley Uwera for NPR

Most of the 60 or so bonobos at Lola arrived as orphans. “Their mothers were killed in the forest for meat and hunters kept the babies to sell,” says Dr. Jonas Mukamba, the resident veterinarian at Lola.Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://0d9cecb803990edf6c50d80e8f8d0024.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The sanctuary’s goal is to prepare the bonobos for life in the wild. In the meantime, they live in Lola’s spacious, forested enclosures and serve as ambassadors to daily delegations of school children.

The children learn that “this animal is unique in the DRC,” says ClaudineAndré, who founded Lola ya Bonobo in 1994. “It is a treasure of nature in Congo.”

André is the daughter of a Belgian veterinarian who practiced in Kinshasa. She has spent much of her life trying to make sure bonobos have a future in the Congo.

It was the Congo river that probably gave rise to bonobo. More than a million years ago, scientists believe, some bonobo ancestors ended up on the South side of the river. That separated them from their chimpanzee relatives to the North.

Neither animal likes to swim. So over time, bonobos became a separate species, one that is smaller, gentler, and less aggressive than chimps.

GOATS AND SODA

Some Generous Apes May Help Explain The Evolution Of Human Kindness

The 10,000 plus students who have visited Lola ya Bonobo learn all this and why it matters, André says.

“Everything is connected on the planet,” she says. “So the kids have to understand that it’s not only the bonobo [at risk]. All the biodiversity is in danger.”

The children also learn to take action if they see a bonobo being kept as a pet, which is a crime in the DRC.

“Very often it’s one of these kids from the school who call us and say, “I saw a bonobo,” André says.

Today’s students have moved from the classroom to the edge of a bonobo enclosure.

Group of school children in science class visiting Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary.Ley Uwera for NPR

Bonjour les bonobos,” Mbwaki calls out to the group of animals eyeing their human visitors. “Bonjour Elikya,” he says to one of the females.

Elikya was born here to a mother who had arrived as an orphan. Now Elikya is raising a baby of her own.

But the ultimate goal is to release bonobos like Elikya into the wild. So Lola has established a second sanctuary called Ekolo ya Bonobo hundreds of miles away.

“It’s a place where bonobos used to be,” says Dr. Raphaël Belais, a veterinarian at Lola. “But unfortunately during the wartime the hunting was going quite strong so they have no more bonobos in this piece of forest.”

It would be nice if all the bonobos at Lola could eventually go to their new home, Belais says. “Unfortunately, some of the orphans are too traumatized or too mutilated.”

Still, more than a dozen animals from Lola have been moved to Ekolo and most of them are doing well. Their future, though, will be determined by Congolese people like the students who came to Lola today.

So I ask a 10-year-old named Gaska Basili, what he learned about bonobos during the visit.

“They are like our brothers,” he replies in French.

“And what would you do if you saw a bonobo being kept illegally?” I ask.

“I would call my teacher, Papa Blaise,” he says.

Pit Bull Always Brings Her Blind Chicken Sister Her Favorite Toys

She’s her guide dog ❤️️🐶🐔

pit bull and blind chicken
pit bull and blind chicken
pit bull and blind chicken
pit bull and blind chicken
pit bull and blind chicken
pit bull and blind chicken
pit bull and blind chicken

For These Vampires, A Shared Blood Meal Lets ‘Friendship’ Take Flight

Common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus), such as this group day-roosting in a cave in Mexico, can form cooperative, friendship-like social relationships.

B.G. Thomson/Science Source

Vampire bats might have a nasty reputation because of the way they ruthlessly drink their victims’ blood, but these bloodthirsty beasts can be both generous and loyal when it comes to their fellow bats.

Captive common vampire bats will share their food with hungry bat companions, and forge such a bond that they continue to hang out with these buddies once they’re released back to the wild, according to a newly published study in the journal Current Biology.

“Bats are very maligned, and vampire bats are the most maligned of the bats,” says Gerald Carter of The Ohio State University, who is also a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “What I study about them often makes people think about them in a more positive light.”

Common vampire bats don’t actually suck the blood of their victims, which are usually livestock like horses or cows. Instead, the bats make little cuts with their razor-sharp incisors and lap at the bleeding wounds.

Bats need to lap up about a tablespoon of blood every night, Carter says. If they miss two nights, these small bats get very weak, and missing three nights might mean death.

A desperate vampire bat, however, can find help in its home roost, where neighbors who did manage to drink blood are often willing to share food by regurgitating some of their last blood meal.

“The females will do this for their offspring, but they also do it for adults, including unrelated adults,” Carter says. “What’s particularly interesting about this species is these non-kin food donations.”

Carter has been studying this in captive bats for years. “We don’t need to train them to cooperate with each other,” he says. “We can just take a bat, deprive it of food for a while, put it back. And then see who is willing to share food with it. And we can just do this repeatedly over time.”

This research has shown that bats can develop social bonds with certain individual bats based on reciprocal food sharing.

“We could see that during the time the bats are in captivity that some of their relationships are getting stronger,” Carter says. “Almost certainly, there were some bats that were forming new relationships in captivity.”

He and his colleagues wondered if these social bonds were real or just something that emerged in the artificial environment of the lab because these bats were forced to hang together.

They decided to do an experiment using 23 female bats that had been captured from a large hollow tree. These bats, and their social connections, had been closely observed for nearly two years in captivity. Over that time, social grooming and food sharing increased within the group. The scientists tagged the bats with special sensors and released them back into the wild, along with a control group of 27 female bats from the wild that were also given sensors.

A team of researchers took common vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) that had been in captivity and from the wild and tagged them with tiny sensors. The bats’ social interactions were then tracked for eight days.

Sherri and Brock Fenton

The sensors, lighter than a penny, were stuck onto the bats using surgical glue, says Simon Ripperger, a visiting scientist at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. “They do not report the exact location,” Ripperger says. “They do report who they are with.”

Every two seconds, he explains, the sensors searched for the presence and relative proximity of all the other tagged bats. This information got sent to shoebox-sized recording stations located at the roost and at a known foraging site. Researchers tracked the bats, and their social interactions, for eight days.

The sensors, which were attached to the bats using surgical glue, could determine how close the tagged bats were to other tagged bats.

Simon Ripperger

What they found is that bats with strong histories of cooperation in the lab continued to spend time together out in the wild. “These relationships that have been forming in captivity, they seem to persist,” Ripperger says.

“The relationships are in the animals’ minds, and they’re not just a byproduct of the environment,” says Carter, who adds that other animals such dolphins, elephants and nonhuman primates also seem to have “complex individualized relationships” with others.

Whether to call these relationships “friendships,” though, is controversial.

“I’m very reluctant to use that word to describe it, and I don’t even like it when it’s in in quotes,” says Joan Silk of Arizona State University, who has studied social bonds in primates. “The bats can’t tell us how they feel, which is a really big problem in trying to figure out what’s going on with the animals. So do animals have friends? I think the answer is, I don’t know.”

Still, in nature, some creatures clearly can form social bonds based on mutual preferences of the individuals. “These strong social bonds play an important role in the lives of these bats and probably in the lives of many social animals,” Silk says.

“I think animals probably do integrate many experiences over time and build up a kind of ‘trust’ with different individuals,” Carter adds.

His research team has been expanding its tracking studies using the special sensors, also putting them on cows to see whether the tagged bats share the bloody wounds they make on these animals with other bats.

“This is a whole aspect of the behavior of vampire bats that people have just sort of looked at anecdotally,” Carter says. “That’s pretty exciting for us right now.”

Angry seal ‘helps’ Australian police bust drug smuggling ring

An international drug smuggling ring was busted in Australia — with the help of an angry seal.

The seal prevented the getaway of two foreign nationals from a small island off the Geraldton coast, according to reports.

“They woke it up and it jumped up with its big chest out and bellowed at them,” Damien Healy, Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue Service vice commander, told ABC radio, according to the BBC.

“The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested and they ended up choosing getting arrested.”

The two foreigners were on a yacht that they ran aground on Sept. 2 before they attempted to flee in a dinghy, officials said. They were caught the next day after the seal interceded.

Cops seized one ton of illicit drugs after their arrests.

Two other foreign nationals and an Australian appeared in court in connection with the seizure on Thursday.

“We have disrupted a big international drug syndicate here,” Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.

Dog Falls Into Canal And Starts To Drown, Until The Group of Dolphins Comes To Saves Him

Dolphins have always been admired for their beautiful form and graceful swim style. But there is more to these marine creatures than meets the eye. They are actually intelligent animals, capable of relating to each other ways. These dolphins proved their compassionate nature when they discovered a dog drowning. When a Doberman fell into the canal on Marco Island, Florida, there were no humans around to rescue him. No one knew that he had fallen in, and it started to look like the pup was out of luck. Luckily, someone did come to his aid.

The beings that helped the drowning dog were not humans; they were dolphins. The dolphins noticed the pup splashing around in the water and swam closer to investigate. They quickly realized that something wasn’t right. The dog was stuck in the canal. The wall that separated the water from the land was too tall for the Doberman to climb. He became frantic as he began to lose hope that someone would save him.

The dolphins may not have had arms or legs, but they found a way to help the dog. They swam around the area making as much noise as possible. “In fact, they made so much noise that some people who lived nearby happened to hear them and investigated why they were being so loud,” Snackay reports. “Then they noticed the dog trapped below the wall in the canal water.”

Finally, a rescue was under way. Firemen rushed to the scene and brought the dog out of the water. He was quite shaken up, but on the whole he was okay. If it hadn’t been for these dolphins, the dog most likely would not have survived. The firefighters estimated that the dog had been trapped for as long as 15 hours – that is a long time to keep swimming, especially if you are not a marine animal. To make matters worse, the pup had to go all that time without anything to drink. Since the canal was full of salt water, trying to take a sip would have only dehydrated him more.

This was one strong dog, but he owes his recovered safety to these compassionate dolphins. They recognized a problem and did whatever they could to restore him to his life on land. This story is a reminder that humans are not the only intelligent beings on the planet. There is a whole network of animals who are capable of forming strong bonds and developing emotional responses. As we continue to learn more about ocean life, we can build a closer community with these creatures.

If we try to live as one with the animals, this world would be a much better place. We should teach our children from very young age that every life matters, and every creature should be treated with kindness.

Amazing video shows the moment a mama bear rescues her cub from drowning in a lake in Canada

  • A mother black bear was filmed rescuing her cub from drowning as they crossed Pitt Lake in British Columbia on June 26
  • The mother bear was swimming with two cubs when one got separated and began to cry in the water and another cub fell underwater 
  • Mom then circled the water look for her cub and it resurfaced and climbed onto her back 
  • With her baby on her back, the mother than swam several feet to comfort her other cub crying across the lake   
  • The three safely made it to shore and wandered off into the wilderness  

This is the moment a devoted mother bear rescues her drowning cub from a Canadian Lake.

Paul Csintalan was out fishing with friends when the mother black bear and her two cubs appeared and started to swim across Pitt Lake in British Columbia on June 26.

In the clip, one cub lags behind its mom and begins to croak and cry as she swims ahead with her other cub.

As she continues swimming her second cub suddenly disappears under the water for a few seconds.

Brave mother bear saves her cub from drowning at Canadian lake
Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
0:00
Previous
Play
Skip
Mute
Current Time0:00
/
Duration Time4:47
Fullscreen
Need Text

A mother black bear was filmed rescuing her cub from drowning as they crossed Pitt Lake in British Columbia on June 26. The drowning cub pictured center behind its mom

A mother black bear was filmed rescuing her cub from drowning as they crossed Pitt Lake in British Columbia on June 26. The drowning cub pictured center behind its mom

The mother bear was swimming with two cubs when one got separated and began to thrash and cry in the water. The cub's eerie and croaky screams were heard from across the water

The mother bear was swimming with two cubs when one got separated and began to thrash and cry in the water. The cub’s eerie and croaky screams were heard from across the water

As the mom swims with her second cub, it falls into the water and starts to drown. The mom circled her little one and found it and helped it climb on her back (baby pictured above on mom's back)

As the mom swims with her second cub, it falls into the water and starts to drown. The mom circled her little one and found it and helped it climb on her back (baby pictured above on mom’s back)

With her cub secure on her back, the mom then swims to her other crying cub

With her cub secure on her back, the mom then swims to her other crying cub

Mama to the rescue! The mom swam several feet away to her crying cub to bring it to safety

Mama to the rescue! The mom swam several feet away to her crying cub to bring it to safety

She then circles the water searching for her little one and its head bops up.

She angles her body underwater so the cub can climb on top and ride on her back.

With that cub secure, the mama bear swims several feet to the other cub, who is thrashing and crying.

Finally, she reaches her baby and it stops crying as mom draws near.

Then the three swim towards shore and safely make it onto a beach.

Real-life Bambi and Thumper spotted in small Washington town

An adorable friendship is blossoming in the town of Loomis, Washington. Meet the deer and bunny who resemble Bambi and Thumper.

LOOMIS, Wash. — Perhaps the movie wasn’t the end for Disney’s Bambi and Thumper. A small herd of deer and their rabbit companion have been spotted in Loomis, Washington.

KING 5 viewer Darlene Wilbourn said the animals visit her mother’s yard every day. In the heartwarming video, you can see the bunny follows a few of the deer around as they lay in the sun.

There doesn’t seem to be any other bunnies as part of the group, but the deer don’t seem to mind. One deer chews peacefully as the bunny sits between its front legs. Another deer even appears to touch noses with the smaller animal.

It seems that Disney’s duo has come to life in Washington.

Share your photos and videos with KING 5 on our Facebook page, or by tagging your Twitter and Instagramposts with #k5spring.

Dog Sneaks Away From Home To Befriend Wild Deer

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Koda was trying to make a new friend.”

PUBLISHED ON 03/12/2019
dog deer friend
dog friend deer
dog deer play friend
dog friendship deer

Missing Toddler Found Alive Says He Was ‘With A Bear For Two Days’

Searchers found Casey Hathaway on Thursday, two days after he vanished from his grandmother’s yard in North Carolina.
X

A 3-year-old boy who was found alive after having been missing for days told family members that he was busy spending time with a bear.

Casey Hathaway was playing with other children on Tuesday when he vanished from his grandmother’s yard in a rural part of eastern North Carolina. He was found alive two days later from where he disappeared after community search crews received a tip.

Casey’s aunt, Breanna Hathaway, posted Friday on Facebook that her nephew was home, healthy and smiling ― and had quite the tale to relate about his experience.

“He said he hung out with a bear for two days,” Hathaway said.

She was willing to roll with the story, saying, “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. … Miracles do happen.”

In another post, Hathaway said Casey likes to watch “Masha and the Bear,” a show about a girl who lives in the woods with a paternal bear who keeps her safe.

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said at a news conference Thursday that search crews found Casey wet, cold and tangled in vines, but not seriously injured.

The boy “didn’t really get into… how he was able to survive,” though he did mention “having a friend in the woods who was a bear,” the sheriff added, without commenting further on that scenario.

There were no signs of abduction, Hughes said.

“He’s up and talking,” Casey’s mother, Brittany Hathaway, said at the news conference after thanking search crews. “He’s already asked to watch Netflix, so he’s good, he’s good.”

The family is planning to set up a post office box to handle the huge wave of support, including from people who Hathaway said want to send stuffed teddy bears.

Breanna Hathaway posted on Facebook that the family appreciates the bear gifts, while advising those sending them to “remember that he can only [take] home so many.”

Orcas now taking turns floating dead calf in apparent mourning ritual

Whale Museum in Washington releases audio of the mourning mother communicating with her pod

Mother orca J-35 has been balancing body of its dead calf on its nose for more than a week. (Soundwatch NMFS Permit #21114/Whale Museum )

35 comments

Listen6:00

Members of a pod of endangered killer whales now appear to be taking turns floating the body of a newborn calf that died more than week ago.

As It Happens reported on Friday about J-35, a mother orca from B.C.’s endangered killer whale population that has been balancing her dead calf on her nose near San Juan Island, Wash.

It’s now been more than a week and the mother whale is still carrying the calf’s remains — sparking concerns among researchers that she’ll tire herself out.

“We do know her family is sharing the responsibility of caring for this calf, that she’s not always the one carrying it, that they seem to take turns,” Jenny Atkinson, director of the Whale Museum on San Juan Island, told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“While we don’t have photos of the other whales carrying it, because we’ve seen her so many times without the calf, we know that somebody else has it.”

New audio released

The Whale Museum released an audio recording on Monday of the mother communicating with her pod.

“You’re hearing them communicate with one another. They’re using a series of calls and whistles to communicate. And then you’ll hear a clicking noise. That’s echo-location,” Atkinson said.

“They use it to pick up their food source as well as map their underwater environment.”

As It Happens
Orca pod in conversation
 LISTEN

00:00 00:20

The Whale Museum recorded the sound of the killer whale pod communicating to each other off San Juan Island, using geo-location to alert each other to potential obstacles and food sources. 0:20

She said it’s possible the sounds are related to their mourning of the calf — but researchers can’t know for sure.

“We picked up some calls earlier in the week and we hear things that sounded more like a very urgent call,” she said. “If you think of going to a wake for a family, things can go on for multiple days and the grief is still deep, but the emotions kind of soften.”

A whale funeral

That’s exactly what Atkinson believes the whales are doing with the calf — holding their own version of a wake or a funeral.

“Ceremonies can go on for days to honour and mourn the loss of a loved one,” she said. “I think that what you’re seeing is the depth of importance of this calf and the grief of the mother and the family.”

This July 25 photo shows the orca mother, J-35, balancing her dead baby on her nose trying to keep it afloat. (Ken Balcomb/Centre for Whale Research)

Anthropologist Barbara King, who studies animal emotion, agrees the whale’s behaviour is likely a display of grief.

There is a body of evidence that shows whales and dolphins mark the passing of their dead, King told CBC’s On The Coast.

Sometimes they will surround dead companions, showing curiosity or exploration, King said. Other times, it goes further: they keep vigils around the bodies of dead podmates or keep them afloat.

“It’s not anthropomorphic to use this label for them,” King said. “Grief and love are not human qualities. They’re things we share with some other animals.”

Population in crisis

The southern resident killer whale population consists of three orca pods that live around the coast of Oregon, Washington and Vancouver Island.

Their numbers are dwindling and they haven’t have a successful birth since 2015.

After the death of a 23-year-old orca June, the total number of southern resident killer whales is down to 75, the lowest it’s been since the early ’80s. The population has dropped by eight since 2016.

CBC News

@CBCNews

This orca mother has been holding her dead calf afloat for more than a week in a “heartbreaking” ritual.

Read more at http://www.cbc.ca/1.4731063?cmp=FB_Post_News 

Their decline is attributed largely to a lack of available chinook salmon, their primary food source.

Researchers are already worried that another young whale in the pod — J-50 — could be the next to die. The four-year-old is becoming increasingly emaciated.

“I don’t see how she can survive,” Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research, told the Seattle Times.

In May, Canada’s federal government announced plans to cut the allowable catch of chinook by 25 to 35 per cent.

In June, it announced further measures to help the endangered population, including reducing underwater vessel noise and better monitoring of pollution.

Human empathy

Atkinson said it’s not hard to see why people have had such visceral reactions to images of J-35 and her calf.

“Watching what she’s going through, most people have been through some level of grief and have had some situation that this touches, because they can understand losing a child, losing a calf, and how heart-wrenching that is,” she said.

“And then not to be able to do anything when humans like to take action. We like to be able to do stuff. Sometimes the hardest thing is just to sit back and give respect and be a witness to a situation.”

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Jenny Atkinson produced by Samantha Lui.