August 9, 2011 / 4:21 PM / 8 years ago

Matriarchal bonobos beat alpha chimps in brain test

MECHELEN, Belgium (Reuters Life!) - Belgian scientists were surprised by the results of an intelligence test which pitted bonobos against chimpanzees as part of a campaign to help publicize the African trade in bonobos as bushmeat.

The bonobos, chimp-like apes who live in matriarchal family groups and frequently use sex to resolve social conflicts, defied expectations by beating the group of chimpanzees in intelligence tests, because the chimps were too busy fighting among themselves for dominance.

“Chimpanzees in the wild use sticks to fish for termites, and bonobos in the wild don’t do that ... so we thought that the chimpanzees would be at an advantage,” biologist Jeroen Stevens said during a news conference.

The brain test was part of a campaign by the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp in Belgium to raise cash to tackle the problem of bonobos being captured in the wild and sold as bushmeat.

Bushmeat, which also includes meat from gorillas, chimpanzees and other animals, is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.

“We think that it can lead to the extinction of apes,” said Stevens, who coordinated the research.

“There are only about 35,000 bonobos on the central Congo basin, that sounds like a lot but that’s actually less than would fit in a football stadium.”

Reporting by Ben Deighton, editing by Paul Casciato

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