The image was released as part of the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year’s Highly Commended portfolio.
You might as well get accustomed to seeing pictures like The Bonobo And The Mongoose, which depicts what appears to be a wild animal with a companion. While it is endearing to observe the bonobo appear to be raising the juvenile mongoose, if we understand nature, there is probably a darker aspect to what we are witnessing.
Christian Ziegler took the picture in the LuiKotale field site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, close to Salonga National Park. Ziegler entered the shot in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 competition at the Natural History Museum, and it has already been recognized as a highly commended entry (alongside these spectacular images).
Ziegler came across one bonobo cuddling a baby mongoose when he was tracking a group of the endangered giant apes. The small mongoose was held and stroked by the bonobo for more than an hour, according to Ziegler in a release for us.
However, as the NHM were keen to note in their release, things might have started out on a worse note. They explained that bonobos are omnivores who primarily eat fruit but also occasionally go hunting. It’s possible that the mongoose pup, which was later returned uninjured, was seized after its mother was slain.
Despite having a varied diet, bonobos do consume meat; a 2019 study found that one group in the Lomako Forest shared meat at a rate similar to chimpanzees. The meat of Weyn’s duikers, a small forest antelope, was chosen by this population. Although it is a larger meal than a mongoose, a bonobo wouldn’t object to a modest bite.
Even the largest of the great apes, the gorilla, has been photographed in the act of caring for small creatures, thus bonobos are not the only species to have been spotted doing so. Bobo, a western lowland gorilla, was kept in the Mefou Primate Sanctuary in Cameroon when he was photographed holding a small bushbaby.
Fortunately, Bobo took good care of the wild bushbaby that had gotten inside the fence and put it in a tree to conclude their encounter. Another gorilla named Koko (renowned for “signing”) supposedly had a close bond with a cat and was heartbroken when it passed away (due to a car, not Koko).
There are some good primate pet care case studies, but there are also others to refute them.
A TikTokker documented the terrible voyage of a stuffed animal that was accidentally put into the Dublin Zoo’s orangutan cage in 2021. In front of bystanders who thought the orangutan was returning the lost item, an orangutan appeared to fish the toy out for the crying child before climbing onto a bridge. Instead, the orangutan started ripping it apart, letting the stuffing fall on the people below.
That’s only a teddy, you say. I hear you sobbing. A gorgeous, big-eyed woodland baby wouldn’t be welcomed by a wild orangutan, I’m sure of that. Try telling that to the loris that this orangutan was spotted devouring, though.
We’ll never know if Ziegler’s bonobo’s interactions with the baby mongoose started as a result of blood ties. Regardless, it certainly makes for a beautiful photograph.