One of humankind’s closest living relatives, the bonobo, is in trouble. Bonobos are probably the least understood great ape in Africa, making it hard for conservationists to protect them. But as with gorillas, chimps, and orangutans, their populations face serious dangers from poaching and forest loss.

Recently, a research team used data from nest counts and remote sensing imagery to study the populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the only country where these apes are found. They established that as little as 28 percent of bonobos’ range remains suitable—with low human activity and intact forests. And just about a quarter of that suitable habitat is actually protected.

The little we know about bonobos is compelling – they have a complex and matriarchal social structure, and they diffuse tension with sexual behaviors. To help these charismatic apes, the scientists say they need to know more about their range and distribution. They also conclude that bonobos need more places where they can be safe from hunters, a significant challenge in DRC.

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