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From: Luke Sartor (
Subject:         Re: Bonobos' diets
Date: July 26, 2014 at 11:32 pm PST

In Reply to: Bonobos' diets posted by Marina on July 26, 2014 at 7:05 pm:

Hi Marina,
I haven't seen any studies showing a controlled
experiment involving giving one group of bonobos
their natural diet and another group a different
diet, while keeping all other variables the same.
Such an experiment would be very, very expensive,
especially if bonobo biomarkers (such as blood tests
for certain nutrients) were regularly taken, which
would probably need to be done for the study to be
approved by the country's ethics committee. Also, it
may need to run over decades because of how long
bonobos live. I wouldn't want my money to go towards
funding such animal-based research anyway.

However, I've seen studies showing what bonobos
usually eat when they're observed in nature (up to
99% is fruits and greens).
You can see some in the reference list here:
As well as here:
And here:
The last site says, "The chimpanzees had what most
human nutritionists would call a very healthy diet,
containing low fat, low protein, and high

Some zoo websites also say what they feed their
bonobos, although zookeepers do not provide the
bonobos with the diet they would naturally eat (i.e.
milk for adults, from cow or soy, boiled eggs,
cooked meat, salt licks, supplements, significant
amounts of nuts, seeds and raw tubers, and not most
of their calories from fresh fruit). The zoo
websites mention how some bonobos will have
diarrhoea, gain weight, feel sick, etc. They also
mention giving them medicines, and hiding them in
their foods. Why they would need to give medicines
though is not something I could find out. But, the
bonobos fed in zoos don't sound like they're super-
The first link above states the following:
"Wild bonobos have a highly varied diet and utilize
many different plant species, but, to date, the
nutritional analysis of these plants is insufficient
to permit detailed comparison of wild and captive
One should remember that, in the wild, every species
has adapted to a diet which enables it to
survive and reproduce. This may not be a species'
optimal diet, but rather a minimal diet to meet
these needs. Although a wild bonobo's diet contains
much fruit, a captive diet providing a similar
proportion of fruit may not necessarily be in the
individual's best interest for several reasons. The
diversity of fruits that can be provided in
captivity is limited in comparison to the variety
available to wild bonobos, and may differ
significantly in nutritional quality and
digestibility. Furthermore, bonobos consume a
significant amount of THV [terrestrial herbaceous
vegetation], a major source of protein. Considering
the importance of THV in the wild diet, a captive
diet should balance the carbohydrates available in
fruit with protein from food items such as
vegetables, roots, tubers,
monkey chow, and browse. Browse also provides
captive bonobos with physical and psychological
stimulation, similar to the THV feeding by their
wild counterparts."

So they are taking the stance that it is not ideal
for the bonobos to eat primarily fruit in terms of
calories when they are in the zoos because of the
lack of variety zookeepers can give them.
Feeding them in a zoo/sanctuary may be difficult
because of the cost, which one sanctuary says is 60
euros per month per bonobo, in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, when they feed the bonobos
primarily fruits and vegetables:
That sanctuary actually raises bonobos and releases
them back into the wild after rehabilitation, so
they must be healthy enough to return to the wild
after staying there. It is a wonderful thing for the
people at that sanctuary to do their work given that
bonobos may become extinct within this century
because of the meat trade.


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