Museum hosts bonobo researcher

Bonobos in the mist, Sala and Seko, rest in a recently cleared field. - Photo submitted
Bonobos in the mist, Sala and Seko, rest in a recently cleared field.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Spending time in the wilderness comes naturally to Kirsty Graham.

The young woman from Campbell River spent her early years at Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre after her family emigrated to Canada from England in 2001.

Her latest venture has taken her to the wilds of Africa, where she is studying a species of ape known as bonobos.

If you missed her talk on Quadra Island, you have the chance to see her at the Museum at Campbell River (470 Island Hwy) on Wednesday, August 20 at 7 p.m., where she will be delivering her pictorial presentation.

Graham just arrived back from the Republic of Congo, researching the unusual bonobos as part of her Phd studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Prior to attending St. Andrews, she had studied bonobos for six months with the Max Planck Institute.

Her decision to pursue this research came about after attending Quest University in B.C., where she discovered that she could combine ecology with psychology, studying great apes to explore questions about human behaviour.

Graham says that for a long time it was thought bonobos were chimpanzees because they look so much like them but there are significant differences in the species.

Unlike chimpanzees, which are war-like, bonobos are considered to be a ‘loving’ animal.

She says also that, “Chimpanzee males can be considered political. Bonobos, on the other hand, form an egalitarian society and females play a pivotal role.”

Her research, which she now conducts on her own, involves filming bonobo social interactions so that she can look for gestural communication, and in her presentation, she will share some of her videos, and talk about results so far.

“Finally,” Graham says, “we will discuss conservation–an inevitable interest for anyone working in the biological sciences.”

Pre-registration is not required, and admission to the talk is by donation.

Proceeds from the talk will support two community projects at the village of Wamba, and go towards a new photocopying/printing facility and a small agricultural startup.

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