Bonobos are the smaller and less researched species of chimpanzee, and just a few days ago the first birth witnessed in the wild by a human took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The three main discoveries that primatologist Pamela Heidi Douglas made while observing the birth were: the mother bonobo gave birth in a tree, rather than on the ground; the mother had two other females present at the birth, who may have served as midwives or at least supporters; and the mother and her female friends all ate the placenta after the birth. Matt Walker reports for the BBC:
For almost two years, Douglas has followed and studied the bonobos at Luikotale, as part of her research towards her PhD.
“One component of my Ph.D. research is the study of reproductive endocrinology in female bonobos,” she told BBC Earth.
To do this, Douglas regularly collected urine samples from Luna and other females in the community on a regular basis.
These were tested with human pregnancy kits, which can detect pregnancy in bonobos as well as other non-human primates.