Day 89: Evolution’s gift of play, from Bonobo apes to humans

They’re the ‘make love, not war’ apes. Like chimpanzees, the Bonobo apes are our closest animal relatives. Unlike chimps, they live in non- violent societies dominated by empowered females. How is this possible? Isabel Behncke tells us they could teach us a thing or two about play.

Play isn’t just children’s games. Behncke shows us footage of Bonobos engaging in sex play and water activities. But they are more than a bunch of over sexed apes. The Bonobos are endangered by the ongoing fighting in their home, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, yet their laughter echoes through the rainforests.

Play is about diversity of interaction. When a female Bonobo has her male counterpart, literally, by the balls to play, she is engaging in an activity which requires and fosters trust. Solo playing allows the apes to explore the difference between the inner and outer worlds. Play can enable creative strategies for conflict resolution. It is a wildcard to enable adaptation in a changing world.

Sounding familiar to the adult world? Behncke wants to encourage us to engage in more play. If we embrace this evolutionary gift, we can rediscover creativity, fellowship and wonder.

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