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Abstract

Data on nest building behavior were collected from free ranging bonobos (Pan paniscus). Considering the physical features of both nests and trees used for nest construction, bonobos appeared to show various preferences: (1) Trees with small leaves were chosen more frequently than expected; (2) The majority of nests were constructed in trees of the middle forest layer (15 to 30 m) and at a mean height of 16 m; (3) nests built during the day were located higher than night nests and differed in the general mode of construction (number of trees involved). Comparing nests made by mature males and females it became apparent that females (4) built nests higher, (5) constructed day nests more frequently and (6) used them for a longer time than males. Comparison of data collected at different study sites indicates site-specific differences concerning selection of trees and location of nesting sites. Behavioral observations made clear that nests were not only used for rest but also for other activities like feeding, social grooming and play. Moreover, the study provided the first evidence that bonobos build nests also in order to avoid potential or imminent conflicts with other party members. Field observations indicate that these nests symbolize a taboo zone and show another facet of the social abilities of bonobos for the solution of intra group conflicts. It is suggested that this behavior derives from the spatial intolerance shown by females during the process of weaning.