Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods is a memoir of her journey to the Congo to work with the virtually unknown cousin of the chimpanzee, the bonobo. Vanessa begins her story with how she came to meet her researcher husband Brian Hare, a recent PhD grad from Harvard who was searching for the answer to what makes us human. After spending years studying the aggressive and male-dominated chimpanzee society, Brian wanted to study the bonobo’s peaceful, female-dominated society. The best place to do this is at the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Congo, the only place where the bonobos can be found.
Lola Ya Bonobo is run by Claudine Andre just outside of Kinshasa. Vanessa and her husband arrived at Lola Ya Bonobo for a short stint that evolved into a deep love for the bonobos and the sanctuary. Because Vanessa is very open about what she felt throughout this entire time, you become fully aware of the struggles, hard work and heartbreak that each person at the sanctuary goes through. It is an intensely moving story about family, and above else, the question of what makes us human. Because if being human relies on our ability for empathy, cooperation, feelings of love/hate/anger/sadness… then the bonobos may be more human than us.
If you would like to learn more about the bonobos go to Vanessa’s website http://www.vanessawoods.net/ .
There are also a ton of YouTube videos by Vanessa that are up. Just look up bonobohandshake and they should be easy to find.
Enjoy the book everyone!