Apes comfort each other ‘like humans’
Young bonobos that are more “socially competent” are more likely to cuddle and calm other apes that are in distress, research has revealed.
Scientists working at an African sanctuary found that bonobos that recovered quickly from an upsetting experience, such as a fight, were also more likely to comfort others.
This mirrors findings from studies in children, and suggests bonobos manage their emotions in a very similar way.
The work is published in PNAS journal.
The researchers captured footage showing “emotionally competent” young apes rushing to hug other juveniles that were screaming after being attacked.
Bonobos are already known as the “empathic apes”. Previous studies have documented their responses to others’ emotions.
Prof Frans de Waal from Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, said these new results revealed that their ability to console one another was part of this empathy.
He added: “It’s almost as if one first needs to have one’s own emotional house in order before one is ready to visit the emotional house of another.
"This is true for children, and apparently also for bonobos."