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Bonobo (Pan paniscus) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Bonobo (Pan paniscus)


  • Omnivorous: eat plants and animals
  • When plentiful, fruit (pulp and seed) constitutes over 50% of diet.
  • Important fruit sources at Lomoko: Dialium, Upaca guineensis, Ficus, Antiaris toxicaria, Pancovia laurentii, Polyalthia suaveolens, Anonidium manii.
    • Other important plant foods: pith, leaves, leaf petioles, seeds and flowers.(Crudia laurentii, Strombosiopsis tetrandra, Dioga zenkeri, Scorodophloeus zenkeri).
    • Honey, eggs, soil, mushrooms and insect larvae are also eaten.
    • Animal foods only a small part of diet: beetles, bees, butterflies, snakes, shrews, earthworms, millipedes, occasionally small mammals (young duiker).
  • Favorite, preferred fruits at Wamba: Anonidium, Canarium, Dacryodes, Cissus, Treculia.
  • Meat-eating by bonobos in wild:
    • Observed eating infant duikers (Badrian N, Malenky R. 1984. In: Susman RL, editor. The pygmy chimpanzees: evolutionary biology and behavior. New York: Plenum Press).
    • Observed eating flying squirrels (Ihobe H. 1992).


  • Bonobos find most of their food in the trees at a height of 25 to 40 m (82 to 131 ft) (Kano 1992)
  • Several researchers note a correlation between a habitat with abundant fruits and the party size of the bonobos.
  • Discovery of preferred fruits prompts bonobos to "fall into a state of excitement" where they eat voraciously, chase, beg, greet, appease, make feeding grunts, whoop loudly and copulate often. (Kano & Mulavwa 1984)
  • Bonobo foraging strategies as seen at Lukuru were more variable than previously reported due to fact that they occupy these drier and more open habitats in addition to wet forests habitats studied previously. (Myers Thompson 2002)
    • Field studies now look for parallels (and differences) between chimpanzee foraging strategies and those of bonobos when the two species ecological settings are similar.
    • Average size of foraging parties for bonobos at Lukuru: 6.4 individuals; at Lomako, about 5 individuals.
    • At Lukuru large groups of 18-25 bonobos gather regularly at permanent pools for feeding on aquatic vegetation
  • Total feeding time (arboreal and terrestrial does not exceed 30% (Wamba)). Common chimp spends 46-60% (Gombe)
  • Not often seen drinking from standing water - may satisfy fluid needs primarily with fruit juices.
  • Food sharing common. Frequently associated with genito-genital contact in various age-sex class combinations.
  • Bonobos at Wamba did not like bananas or papayas, which were offered to them in food trials.

Fruit Lovers

a bonobo eating

The majority of a bonobo's diet is comprised of plants and fruits.

They find most of their food high in the trees.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Page Citations

Badrian & Malenky (1984)
Bermejo et al. (1994)
Kano (1992)
Kano & Mulavwa (1984)
Mulavwa et al. (2008)
Myers & Thompson (2002)

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