What the bonobos have in cuteness, the Congolese insects have in ferocity.
When I first came across ants on the path, I thought it was a fallen branch. But then I looked closer, and saw that it was in motion—very fast motion. The ants here form streams to get where they need to go, with large guys with big claws guarding the edges while the smaller ones move along in the center. In my book I have my protagonist sleeping out in the open, and I’m realizing how much of a menace the local ants would be for her. I also realize why the bonobos will eat them. They’re plump, and look like they’ve almost got muscles.
Then there’s the termites, which form these massive hives. They’ve got little fangs, too, and these sacs of venom on their rears. Antoine, a Frenchman who’s volunteering here to build the new nursery, got a few nasty bites from them when he was taking down an old wood structure.
Praying Mantises. Very frequently seen here. I was marveling at how still this guy was until I realized he’d gone too near the fence and been electrocuted.
And, if only because they’re so awesome, I’m closing with a bonobo picture. This is in the adult enclosure, where a high ranking female is spending some time with a young male in the late afternoon. She’s pulling hard nuts away from a cluster, placing them on the stone, and then crashing another stone into them to break the shell. The famous tool use of the great apes. The male’s just along for the grub, which I guess he gets to do because he’s so handsome.
In the wild, bonobos generally have thick coats of hair. In the sanctuary or in zoos, since they don’t have to spend all their time foraging, they have a lot more social time. For a bonobo, that means grooming, and the overgrooming is why some of the bonobos, especially the popular ones, are bald. I think it takes some of their dignity away, but they don’t seem to mind one bit.