Prospects for bonobo insectivory: Lui Kotal, Democratic Republic of Congo

W. C. McGrew*, Linda F. Marchant, Melanie M. Beuerlein, Deirdre Vrancken, Barbara Fruth, Gottfried Hohmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are well-known to eat invertebrates, especially social insects, across Africa, but allopatric bonobos (P. paniscus) are not. Bonobo insectivory is sparsely documented and apparently sporadic. However, the availability to bonobos of social insect prey and raw materials with which to make tools to exploit them is unknown. Here, we test a set of hypotheses that relates to questions of presence, abundance, density, and distribution of taxa that Pan consume and of vegetation suitable for making extractive foraging tools. We worked at Lui Kotal, Democratic Republic of Congo, where unprovisioned bonobos live in intact forest, far from villages. We collected insect and fecal specimens, transected for prey and assessed raw materials, and monitored mounds of Macrotermes. All but 1 of the major taxa of relevant termites, ants, and (stinging) honey bees were present. The 3 main taxa of insects that chimpanzees elsewhere eat -Macrotermes (fungus-growing termites), Dorylus (Anomma; army or driver ants), and Apis (honey bees)- were abundant and widespread, and usually at densities exceeding those at well-known chimpanzee study-sites. Similarly, woody and nonwoody vegetation suitable for making fishing probes was common at mounds of Macrotermes. There is no obvious ecological reason why bonobos should not use elementary technology in extractive foraging, e.g., termite-fish, ant-fish, ant-dip, honey-dip, to obtain social insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1237-1252
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2007


  • Elementary technology
  • Extractive foraging
  • Insectivory
  • Pan paniscus
  • Pan troglodytes


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