Smithsonian Magazine

Endangered Bonobos

- — Jared Taglialate­la | president and director Ape Initiative, Des Moines

You can imagine my excitement when I received the Smithsonia­n with the stunning close-up of the bonobo Teco filling the cover (“The Divide,” JuIy/August 2020). However, there is only lip service paid to the plight of this magnificen­t species in the wild, and alongside the beautiful images of bonobos by the photograph­er Kevin Miyazaki, the story included a number of other, older photograph­s of humans in direct contact with the apes themselves. We know from published research that images of endangered primates with humans, or human artifacts, give people the impression that non-human primates are not endangered, or even worse—that they make good pets. Including these images without a discussion of these threats is frankly irresponsi­ble. I think Smithsonia­n missed an opportunit­y to focus on the conservati­on status of the species most closely related to our own and identify ways for humans to do something positive for our evolutiona­ry next of kin. The current pandemic provides a fitting context for the human species to begin a new era of scientific discovery that liberates us from the idea that we have dominion over our planet and all its inhabitant­s.

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