"Jungle Relations" by Aimee Kovac

Aimee's work has also appeared in Inkburns.  She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology.


© 2004 Aimee Kovac




The female's genitals intrigued him; however, his hands were full of the yellow fruit 

and this fruit was a fine treat.


The ape returned his attention to his mother. He and his mother and all apes of his mother's group were gathered away from the light and the activity. Several trees had fallen, trees connected by lianas, and so one area of the forest floor was not empty as was typical but was wild with the tangle of the vines and the fallen trees and much vegetation. Sunlight found the opening in the canopy and reached eagerly for the floor. The illuminated area of floor was crowded and active as plants flourished and many things scurried and gathered and feasted. It was in this area that the delightful fruit had been found, and it was a fruit larger and tastier than most.


A male had found the fruit and had relinquished it to the ape's mother as was customary. Holding the fruit, the ape's mother led the others to a darker spot on the forest floor and one that was safe and away from the harsh light and the activity. The ape sat with his mother in the spot of her choosing and watched as she hit the fruit against a large root. Around them there was much excitement and chatter. Many apes became active with grooming and copulation as females bonded and males placated and all became hungry and eager for feasting. When the fruit was cracked, all females and their offspring quickly gathered around, and the males paced the floor near the group. His mother fed first, then the ape fed, then all females and their children fed. The ape sat close to his mother and his hands were kept full of the wet and yellow fruit.


After several helpings, the ape licked his hands and looked down at the large fruit held between his mother's legs. The fruit was green and bumpy and cracked almost in two, and its juicy contents were diminishing. An infant had its feet on the green shell as it suckled his mother's breast and flexed its fingers on her arm. The ape looked at his mother and grinned and placed his hand on her mouth. She looked away in fun and his hand slid across her cheek. The ape walked his fingers back to his mother's mouth and tapped her red lips. His mother looked around the infant and down at the broken green fruit between her legs. She scooped a handful of the yellow flesh, ate a bite from her cupped hand, and placed the rest in her son's hand. The ape grinned and lifted the sweet fruit to his lips.


A finger tapped his ear. He turned and saw the female who had displayed her genitals to him and had waited beside him as he ate. She was a young female and a new one to their group who was yet without female alliances. She quickly lay on her back and called to him and opened her legs to him. Her genitals were large, and so she was ready for mating, but he was reluctant because the sweet juice was running through his fingers and not a bit of so fine a prize should be wasted. He looked at his hand, but when he looked again at the female, he himself became large and ready for mating. He held his hand with the fruit up high, and he approached the female and thrust into her. The female squealed with pleasure and locked eyes with him. He thrust harder and set his knuckles on the ground on either side of her for stability. The female placed her hand behind his neck and drew him to her and kissed him. While she thus occupied him, the sneaky female stole his handful of fruit then turned from under him and walked away. He had only wetness and stickiness remaining in his hand, and he walked to his mother and tapped his sticky fingers on her mouth. She gave him more fruit and he was content.


When the ape was filled of the fruit, he looked around him in his fullness and in his contentment and watched the males pacing at a distance. All males looked hungry and all had their eyes on the active little ones in the group. A little one in play tumbled away from the group and a sneaky male quickly took the fruit from this youngster's hands. The little one returned to the center to find his mother for another piece of the fruit, and he would learn that next time he should not wander. Yet he did, and the others did, and that is how the males on the outside were fed bits of the good fruit.

The ape's mother set aside the green shell when it was emptied then stood and guided her infant's fingers to grab the hair on her chest. The other females stood and the little ones climbed up their mothers and found firm holds. The ape's mother climbed the nearest tree with the infant clung to her chest. The ape followed his mother, and some females and their offspring followed him while others climbed in other directions. As the ape climbed, he turned his head and looked down at the males far below. The males took turns inspecting the empty green shell, then one by one they climbed after the females as they plucked many berries and stuffed these berries in their mouths.


The ape's mother stopped far below the canopy, but also far from the forest floor and from the bright and open area of the jungle. She wove branches and lianas together for her nest, and the other females did the same, and the males wove nests in the trees below. When his mother had finished building her nest, she entered it with her infant and sat and groomed the little one. The ape stood below his mother on another tree, and he pouted and called to her. When she did not respond, the ape called loudly to her and danced a bit, and still she ignored him. The ape made his own nest, but he did so slowly and with sad looks over his shoulder to his mother because he also wanted a nice grooming.


When the ape completed his nest, he settled into it, and he lay on his back and looked up. As his stomach was heavy with food, he soon became sleepy. He broke a twig to chew as he eased into rest, and his sleep was sound in the warmth and the chatter of the trees.


He awoke to the calls of his mother. She stood on the edge of his nest and called to him that he would allow her to enter. He sat up and yawned and waved his fingers to his palm. His mother, with the infant at her breast, entered and sat behind her adult son. She moved her gentle fingers through the hair on his back. The ape looked around as he was groomed, and his eyes were uncaring of what they saw for he was content.


There was much to be seen around him, and much was moving, and sometimes it was as if the vegetation itself were moving. He looked at a tree and a section of bark twitched and scurried away. He looked at a leaf and the leaf immediately had legs and feasted on a bug. He saw a stick with long arms and legs, and he saw a flower fly away. He saw worms, and he saw frogs, and he saw ants in abundance. But as the grooming was relaxing and soothing, he focused on nothing and let his eyes wander.


Soon his eyes scanned a purple lizard on a limb, and at this he looked more attentively because he thought its bright color was delightful. The lizard grew a brighter purple, then it was blue, then it was purple again. Another lizard came to this one and this new lizard was a dull green, but the two were intrigued with one another, and the purple lizard mounted the dull green one. The ape allowed the grooming for longer and longer still as he watched the lizards in copulation, then he thought he would do such a thing as these lizards did. He stood from his mother and left his nest in search of a female. His mother returned to her own nest with the infant.


He passed the female from before, the new female to the group who had stolen his fruit, but she was on her way up. He stopped and watched the female as she climbed to his mother's nest, stood on its boundary, and displayed herself. His mother had many alliances, and in fact she was the head female and ranked highest above all in their group, but she would have another alliance. She allowed this new female into her nest with a wave of her fingers, and she set the infant to the side and lay before the new female. The new female entered the nest and stood on all fours above his mother, and his mother embraced from below, and the two rubbed their genitals together. The ape turned and no longer watched because he would find a female who was not currently making alliances. He climbed through the trees in search of such a one.


He came to a tree in which a male was displaying himself to the female who was second in rank to his mother. The ape made himself ready for this female and called to her. The female turned away from the other male. The ape then stood upright and spread his legs wide and puffed up his chest and thrust his genital high in the air. The other male was vocal, and he was vocal in excess, but the ape was determined to take priority as he was entitled. The second-in-rank female moved to the ape and turned from him and displayed her genitals from behind. The ape proceeded to her and mounted her. The other male's arguing was in vain, and he soon lost his robustness and left the tree.


When the ape was finished and the female was content, the couple separated. The ape climbed, and as he did, he saw a movement to his side and stopped to look. A thing from far away moved again, and its movement was so peculiar that the ape was intrigued and watched it further. The thing jumped from one branch to another, and it jumped so high and in such a strange manner that it seemed a funny thing. When it came down from the air to a new branch, its long hair stood on end and its arms and legs and long tail were splayed as if it were trying to stretch itself as wide as its body would allow. The funny thing put a leaf in its mouth and jumped again, and now it jumped in the ape's direction. The ape believed this thing would make for delightful play, and he stood motionless against the tree. A laugh began in his throat that he quickly silenced. He remained hidden, and when the monkey took its next leap, the ape reached out an arm and grabbed it by its tail. The monkey screamed and writhed. The ape allowed his laughter, and it came in a burst of chuckles. He was happy with this new curious thing and went straightaway to his nest to better explore it.


When he entered his nest, he faced away from his mother lest she should find interest in the curious thing and take it from him. But his mother was not attentive to him because she and the infant were playing, and their eyes were locked in play, and they were laughing and squealing together.

The ape set the monkey in his lap. It bit and scratched his legs, and its many limbs were active. The ape pressed on it until it was calm, then he picked it up by its tail and held its hairy face in his other hand. Its eyes were moving wildly and the ape could not look carefully at them. The ape thought this curious thing was a great find and kissed it above its eyes. He then turned it around to explore its genitals and found that this curious thing must not be ready for its own mating because its genitals were not large and they were not so red. He ran a finger on its genitals, then he turned the monkey to face him again and pulled its arms open so that its chest was wide before him. The hair on the monkey's chest was light, but the hair on its back was the color of the forest floor, the same dark red color of the ape's fingers when they were soil-stained from digging for earthworms. The ape looked down the monkey's splayed arms and saw that the curious thing was missing a thumb on both hands. The loss did not look twisted and violent, and there was no scar or oddity from accident, yet the ape felt pity for this unfortunate one.


When he wearied of exploration, the ape decided to groom the monkey. Its hair was long and fluffy and therefore a pleasure to groom, but the monkey became wild again and seemed ready for play. The ape threw it in the air and caught it and looked up in its wild eyes. He laughed and threw it again high, and again high and higher still, and the monkey found a branch with its feet and jumped away. The ape stared above for the curious thing, and as he did, he heard a high voice from below . . .



. . . and something swift flew past him. He crouched and looked down at the forest floor for the voice he had heard. It was dim down there, but he could see two shapes, and one was bigger than the other, though they were both small from this distance. The bigger one was holding a bowed stick, and this big one turned to the small one behind it and slapped the small one on its head. The small one cried out and the big one hit it again, and the big one's voice was low and rapid. The ape heard a scream behind him in the trees, then he heard many screams, then he heard only one scream.

The ape turned and looked up and saw his mother in her nest. Many apes were passing between him and his mother, and they were swinging and climbing swiftly through the trees, but they were quiet as they did so. His mother was holding the infant. The infant was screaming, but his mother was not consoling.


The ape climbed slowly to his mother's nest. He called to her, but she would not move and she had a long branch stuck to her chest. The infant screamed and pulled on the branch, and his mother let him pull and did nothing. The ape hesitated on the boundary of her nest. He called to her, then he called louder and danced wildly, but she did not move. Without her permission to do so, he reluctantly entered her nest. Her chest was covered with blood and her hair was wet with it, and between her breasts was the long branch. He pulled on the branch, then he pulled harder, then he gave a strong tug, and it came off her chest. On the end of the branch was a bloody and pointed bone. The ape threw the branch down and tapped his mother on her face, but she would not move. The ape called to her and patted her body, then he did so with vigor, and still she would not move.

Something snapped far below him on the tree. He touched his mother's cheek with light fingers, then he grabbed the screaming infant and left the tree in great speed.


The ape stopped in another tree and hid, and he covered the infant's screaming mouth and rubbed its head until the infant was quiet. He turned around to look back at his mother. Something was climbing the tree below her. It reached her nest and it was a strange ape and a kind that he had never seen before. It had hair on its head, but its face was smooth and flat, and its head was round and tall on top, and its eyes were large, and its nose was small, and it had large lips but a small mouth. This strange one had its genitals and legs covered with something blue, like the blue lizard but duller. Its short arms were not covered, but its chest and back were covered with something light in color. This light-colored thing clung to the strange ape in smudgy patches, especially under its arms and neck.


The strange ape entered the nest from below. The ape grew furious, but he also felt strong caution, so he kept still. This strange one lifted his mother's head and looked in her eyes. It put its short finger on his mother's neck and laid its head on her chest. It then crawled behind his mother and pushed on her, and she rolled. The strange ape rolled her until she was at the edge of her nest, then it rolled her off and over and into the darkness. There was much cracking and snapping and one thud, then there were cries and laughter and clapping from the strange little ape on the forest floor.

The ape pressed the infant to his chest and guided its fingers to grab his hair. He then swung from lianas through the trees until he was far from his mother and the strange ape and the strange little ape. He sat, and he breathed, and he looked rapidly about him. It was quiet where he sat, and the quiet was unfamiliar. Gradually, his fear diminished and sadness filled his chest. He whimpered and kissed the infant all over its face and rubbed its little head.


A while passed before the ape heard the call of one from his group. He followed the voice and the other voices that joined in, and he ran and swung through the trees and added his own voice to the mix. When he reached his group, he saw that it had grown to the size of the group from earlier on the forest floor, or seemed to be even larger. The apes were scattered high in the trees and all were wild with copulation. Females were rubbing together, and males and females were mating, and males were grooming one another and rubbing together, and youngsters were comforting each other in imitation.


The ape guided the infant to his back and stood on two legs and prepared himself for display. He thrust his genital high in the air and walked forward. He displayed himself to a female who was without a partner and was thus comforting herself in her need. He rocked over his legs in simulation, but she looked away. He approached her and rubbed her ear with tenderness and rocked himself more gently, but she gave him no response. He moved away from her and displayed again from a short distance, but she ignored him still.


He noticed the second-in-rank female. She was active in copulation with the new female, the one who had stolen his fruit and had made alliances with his mother. The ape approached the two females and displayed himself to them, and he rocked from side to side. Neither took notice of him, so he moved closer, and he squealed and displayed proudly and stoutly to both and either. The females would not have him and looked at each other instead. The ape was frustrated and vocal until he finally withdrew. He found a nest of tangled branches, and he sat in this nest and watched the apes of his mother's group. The infant crawled up to his chest and cried for a full breast as it searched his nipple with its fingers. The ape comforted the little one with a full hug and many kisses.

His grief was tiring, and the ape slept with the infant doing the same on his chest. When he awoke, he saw the forest had darkened a bit. The apes of his mother's group had settled into nests, and some were resting, and some were grooming, and some were copulating in one form or another. The ape was emptied of the fruit from earlier and was hungry, but he was thirsty first. He took a drink from the deep bowl of a large waxy leaf, then he looked around him for food. He saw only leaves and berries and these would not do. He wanted something happier to eat, such as a large fruit or maybe some meat. He was apprehensive about the safety of the forest floor, but it was long since the strange ape and the strange little ape had hurt his mother with a branch. He wanted to find a ripe fruit or maybe some juicy caterpillars, so he took a chance, and with the infant clung sleepily to his chest, he climbed down the tree.


When he reached the floor, the ape saw something twitching between the large roots of a tree. The ape moved to this thing, and he did so slowly and quietly until he saw that it was a duiker lying on its side with its leg stuck. The duiker was reaching with its bloody tongue for a fruit seed. Many mosquitoes and flies were gathered around the blood on the duiker's mouth and leg.


The ape thought this was a great find on such a day as this had been, so he walked upright with his genital high in the air to the little antelope. He called to it, but he did so quietly because he wanted this prize for himself. The duiker was agitated, and it writhed against the dark thing binding its leg, and it bit at its leg with vigor. The pests became frenzied above the active duiker and buzzed loudly as they tried to regroup. The ape waited as the duiker writhed and bit at its leg until the leg was almost severed, then he picked the duiker up by its neck and pulled it free. The leg was left behind and was quickly covered with a fuzz of pests. The thing holding fast to the leg did not move but grinned with many interlocked teeth.


The ape climbed a tree away from the other apes. He settled in a tangle of lianas far enough above ground, but also far down from the canopy. He pulled the infant from his chest, but the infant was reluctant and fought him. The ape soothed the infant with his voice and rubbed its little arm until the infant settled next to the ape and sucked its thumb.


The stunned duiker lay across the ape's lap. The ape thought to kill it before he began to eat. He grabbed its body firmly and whipped it behind him so the duiker's head hit the trunk of the tree. Just as the ape was about to feast, he heard calls from above. A male descended to where the ape was sitting with the dead little antelope, and this male was furtive but timid. When he saw that he had been spotted, this male stood upright before the ape and, with a cry and a wave of his fingers, entreated the ape for a morsel. The ape was willing to share with this one, but only this one, so he himself stood upright, holding the duiker by its muzzle, and called in return. Each gave the other his turn to speak as both their genitals were thrust high in the air. After saying much, they turned from each other and briefly rubbed their genitals together from behind. Then all was settled and the other male sat beside the ape to feast.


Before even one bite, the ape heard more movement from above. Another male appeared, an angry male who was yelling and dragging a stick. This male was the adult son of the second-in-rank female, and he was vocal and moved much in front of the ape. He reached for the duiker in the ape's lap. The ape held fast to the duiker and became vocal himself. The male screamed and called to the ape in excess. The ape kicked heartily and slapped the male with his feet.


There was suddenly much movement above in the trees and soon many females appeared. They moved to the ape with determined steps. The angry male stepped back and let the females pass. The second-in-rank female was in front of all other females, and she bent down and gently lifted the infant sitting beside the ape. She rubbed its genitals and gave the infant kisses on its head, then she handed the infant to another female who withdrew behind the others.


The second-in-rank female turned to the ape. She called to him and waved her fingers to her palm with authority. The ape would not relinquish the duiker. The other females gathered around and they all called to the ape for the duiker, but the ape held fast to his prize. The second-in-rank female grew agitated, and the other females followed suit, and they tried to wrench the duiker from the ape's grasp. The ape slapped a female with his foot.


The many females turned their heads to the one who had been slapped. All were quiet. One by one, the females turned their heads back to the ape, and after a brief and heavy moment of stares, they attacked. Many held the ape down, and one removed the duiker from his grasp and handed it to a female who lifted herself from the tussle. The many females gave bites and more bites as reminders. The second-in-rank female gave the largest bite, and the ape felt aching in his finger to the bone.

All females stood from the ape when the second-in-rank female stood and turned to her son. The angry male was allowed to hold the duiker a bit longer before his mother took it gently from him and climbed into the trees. The angry male followed, and the other females followed closely behind the two. The first male, the timid one who had asked to share the prize, was the last to ascend, and he climbed eagerly behind the females. The ape was left alone with duiker blood on his legs and ape blood all over his body. His finger had the most blood and hung like a broken branch.


The ape sat in his pain and in his disorientation. After a while, he thought of the prize, the prize that was a juicy duiker. He stood, and his wounds stung with fresh pain. He ascended into the trees, and as he climbed, the broken finger became a nuisance and was painful as it dragged on the lianas. The ape chose to bite it off, and he did so quickly so that his resolve was stable and his pain was brief. He stayed the flowing blood with a bit of moss.


The ape followed the calls of his group, and they were from high and far. He climbed and climbed farther still until he was just under the canopy. The apes were illuminated beneath the forest ceiling as the last of the day's sunlight found gaps in the small green leaves. Many apes were close to the female who held the duiker. All were attentive to the prize she was holding, and some males were daring and moved closer to the group. The ape was apprehensive because of the aching reminder of his missing finger, so he remained far from the group and behind the males.


The new head female sat in the center of the group, and she was surrounded by youngsters and by adults who could each claim a female as his mother. This new head female who was not the ape's mother was feasting on the duiker as an infant suckled her breast. She gave a mostly eaten leg to a youngster. This youngster danced with the leg more than he chewed on it. The adult son of the new head female, the angry male who had initiated the theft, was happy with a leg full of meat, and his lips were bloody and thus redder than usual. The ape desired that juicy leg full of fresh meat. He should be given a treat such as that one.


The youngster with the leg bone danced closer to the ape until it was close enough for the ape to reach out a hand and take the bone from him, and he did just this. There was not much meat on the bone, but the youngster was upset at the loss of his plaything, and he was vocal in his upset. The ape tore off a small bite and another and a third with his teeth, then he quickly handed the bone back to the youngster. His wounds were still painful reminders, and he wanted no further trouble. The little one soon forgot himself in play but remained close to his mother.


The ape paced around the group with the males. He swatted at mosquitoes and flies and at other pests who found his many wounds to be fine treats. He waited with the other males, but kept his distance from them lest he should acquire a bit of meat and another might decide to have it for himself. All males kept private distances, but as all were eager for a bit of the prize, the group's boundary narrowed, and this did not allow for each his own ample space. Another male moved close to the ape, and the ape grew agitated at the intrusion. The ape became vocal, and he was vocal in excess, and the other male also became vocal. There was much screaming from the ape and his intruder, then three females gave a vocal warning and the two stormed from the crowded spot.

After circling the wall of males many times, the ape found a vacancy with a fairly good view of the prize and the little ones. He stood upright and paced in this small area, and he displayed himself in his virility and in his anticipation of meat. He slapped his body when a pest would freshen a sting, and this happened so frequently that his arms and legs were wild with slapping.


Much time passed. The meat on the sweet prize was diminishing. Some males were bumping against him and others were pushing him out of their way and into other males, and most youngsters were preoccupied with play and held no meat to be taken. There were many more small and fresh pains on his body from the pests and the pests' recruits, and he grew infuriated at this nuisance and defied the pains and stopped slapping at them. He needed to get to that prize before it was gone. The herbs and the berries and the vegetables and the bugs were plentiful and some were very tasty, but these things alone would not do. He must feast. This was customary. He was his mother's son.


The ape growled and puffed himself up and made ready to pounce on a youngster still out of reach when he spotted the infant, his mother's infant, staring at him. It crawled from the group, and when it reached the ape, it looked up with its wet eyes, wrapped its little fingers around the ape's leg hairs, and lightly tugged. The ape shook the infant off and walked away a bit, but the infant followed him and persisted with the tugging until the ape lost his anger and slumped to the floor. The infant crawled in his lap.


Fresh blood glistened on the infant's lips, and the ape touched the blood with his finger. The infant wrapped its fingers around the ape's chest hairs and climbed up. It gave many kisses all over the ape's face then put its fingers on the ape's lips. The ape opened his mouth, and the infant reached in its tiny hand and placed something on his tongue.


Grinning, the ape pulled the infant away and held it before him. The little one squealed and opened its mouth in a wide smile, begging for a tickle. Lifting his feet, the ape wiggled his toes under the infant's arms, and the little one threw back its head in a fit of squeals. The ape also squealed, but quietly so as not to alarm the females, then he sucked and rolled on his tongue the juiciest sliver of meat.





author's note

Of the four great apes (the gorilla, the orangutan, the chimpanzee, and the bonobo), the endangered bonobo is the least known.  Though bonobos and chimpanzees are equally related to humans (with a DNA differential of less than 2%), the two species are very different.  Whereas chimp societies (and most human societies) are patriarchal, bonobo societies are matriarchal and a male bonobo's rank is based on his mother's seniority.  Male chimps dominate female chimps and can be violent (chimps hunt for meat, engage in warfare, and practice infanticide); male bonobos are relatively peaceful and any violent tendencies they would have are suppressed by allied females.  The bonobo has been severely threatened by deforestation and poaching.  Living in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the bonobo is in the midst of a region devastated by years of political corruption and ethnic strife 

and has been hunted, sold, and eaten by locals.     


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