Barbara Fruth

Director LuiKotale Bonobo Project

Research themes

  • Bonobo Behavioural Ecology
  • Conservation Biology

Responsibilities

As director of the LuiKotale Bonobo Project (LKBP), I am in charge of running its study site situated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Jointly with Dr. Gottfried Hohmann I manage and oversee staff and students involved, coordinate and conduct research and acquire the funds needed to allow fundamental and applied research as well as conservation measures. I am employed full time as an associate professor in primate behaviour and conservation at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Liverpool, UK. In addition, I am an associate researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPIEVAN) Leipzig, Germany, Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture.

Extra activities

Since 2011 I am president of the non-profit organization Bonobo Alive which is supporting conservation of the bonobos within and outside the LuiKotale study site investing into education, community development and public outreach. In this frame I maintain a strong link to Zoos housing bonobos allowing research informed support for the species’ natural requirements. Since 2009, I am a member of the Great Ape Section (SGA) of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (executive committee).

Research Interests

Much of my research focuses on the socioecology of bonobos, particularly in respect to similarities and differences with their congeners, the chimpanzees. In this context my research covers a broad suite of topics from ecology (forest phenology, plant taxonomy, phytochemistry, pharmacology, ethnobotany, seed dispersal, predation), ethology (social networks, aggression and peacemaking, sexual behaviour, nest-building, tool-use, cultural zoology, zoopharmacognosy, communication), physiology (nutrition, endocrinology, virology, isotope analyses), genetics (kinship analysis, evolutionary genetics), and wildlife biology (conservation-related censuses, community development, animal welfare). In the frame of my project ‘The Cuvette Centrale as Reservoir of Medicinal Plants’ (“Projet Cuvette Centrale”; 2001-2010)” I have also developed considerable expertise in ethnobotany and traditional medicine that now serves as basis to better understand bonobo self-medication.

Brief Biography

I studied Zoology, Botany and Paleontology at Munich University where I obtained my Diploma (equivalent to MScRes) in 1990 investigating regional differences of nests, nutcracking sites and population density of chimpanzees in the South Western part of Ivory Coast. In 1995 I obtained my PhD in Zoology and Ethology from the same University, focusing on the ecological and behavioural correlates of nests and nest groups in wild bonobos. My subsequent Postdocs (1996 – 2001) were at the Department of Anthropology at Miami University Oxford OH, USA, and the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Seewiesen, Germany, before I started the “Projet Cuvette Centrale” as senior researcher and PI. In 2014 I obtained my Habilitation (venia legendi) from Munich University. Next to the teaching requirements, my focus was on bonobo behaviour and the quest for their habitat conservation by sustainable use of plants. Thereafter I joined the Centre of Research and Conservation (CRC) of Antwerp ZOO and Planckendael ZOO while remaining associated professor at Munich University. Since June 2016, I am employed as Associate Professor for Primate Behavior and Conservation at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. Here I am teaching students from foundation (L3) to bachelor (L6) levels and I am supervising bachelor, master and PhD students. In addition, I am (co-)supervising various student projects from around the globe.

Book chapters

Fruth BI. 2016. Great Ape Nest-Building Fuentes A. The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. 1-3 9781119179313 >DOI 

Fruth BI. 2015. Primaten: Verwandtschaft aus dem Regenwald Feest C, Kron C. Regenwald :130-135 Konrad Theiss. Wemding 978-3-8062-2799-4 

Fruth BI. 2015. Das Kongobecken und seine Regenwälder in Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft. Feest C, Kron C. Regenwald :110-119 Konrad Theiss. Wemding 978-3-8062-2799-4 

Liebs V, Bikandu B, Lassa L, Lukoki L, Schareika N, Fruth BI. 2013. Signifying competence: urban herbalists seeking affirmation in Kinshasa Living the City in Africa Processes of Invention and Intervention :213-233 LIT Verlag Münster 9783643801524 

Williamson EA, Maisels FG, Groves CP, Fruth BI, Humle T, Morton B, Richardson MC, Russon AE, Singleton I. 2013. Family Hominidae (Great Apes) Handbook of the Mammals of the World Primates :853-854 Lynx Edicions 9788496553897 

Hohmann G, Fruth B. 2011. Is blood thicker than water? Among African Apes: Stories and Photos from the Field :61-76 9780520267107 

Fruth BI, Mato B, Muganza M. 2010. Nkundo plant use (Cuvette Centrale, DRC) with a focus on indigenous knowledge and the application of aphrodisiacs Building Bridges between Anthropology, Medicine and Human Ethology :211-226 Bochum: The University Press 9783899663488 

Mohneke M, Fruth BI. 2007. Bonobo (Pan paniscus) density estimation in the SW-Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo: common methodology revisited. The Bonobos Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation :151-166 Springer Science & Business Media 9780387747873 

Fruth BI, Hohmann G. 2006. Social Grease for females? Same sex genital contacts in wild bonobos Homosexual Behaviour in Animals An Evolutionary Perspective Cambridge University Press 9780521864466 

Fruth BI. 2002. Dynamics in social organization of bonobos (Pan paniscus) Behavioural Diversity in Chimpanzees and Bonobos :138-150 Cambridge University Press 9780521006132 

Fruth BI, Hohmann G. 2002. How bonobos handle hunts and harvests: why share food? Behavioural Diversity in Chimpanzees and Bonobos :231-243 Cambridge University Press 9780521006132 

Fruth BI. 1999. The Pan species The Nonhuman Primates McGraw-Hill Humanities Social 978-1559349741 

Fruth BI, Hohmann G. 1998. Food sharing and status in unprovisioned bonobos Food and the Status Quest An Interdisciplinary Perspective :47-67 Berghahn Books 9781571811233 

Fruth BI, Hohmann G. 1996. Comparative analyses of nest building behavior in bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes Chimpanzee Cultures :109-128 Harvard University Press 9780674116634 

Fruth BI, Hohmann G. 1996. Nest building behavior in the great apes: the great leap forward? Great Ape Societies :225-240 Cambridge University Press 9780521555364 

Fruth B, Hohmann G. 1995. Loud calls in great apes: Sex differences and social correlates Current Topics in Primate Vocal Communication :161-184 Springer Science & Business Media 9781475799309

Peer reviewed publications (past 5 years)

Beaune D, Bretagnolle F, Bollache L, Hohmann G & B Fruth (2015). Can fruiting plants control animal behaviour and seed dispersal distance? Behaviour 152: 359–374

Wilson ML, Boesch C, Fruth B, Furuichi T, Gilby IC, Hashimoto C, Hobaiter CL, Hohmann G, Itoh N, Koops K, Lloyd JN, Matsuzawa T, Mitani JC, Mjungu DC, Morgan D, Muller MN, Mundry R, Nakamura M, Pruetz J, Pusey AE, Riedel J, Sanz C, Schel AM, Simmons N, Waller M, Watts DP, 

White F, Wittig RM, Zuberbühler K, Wrangham RW.  (2014) Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts.  Nature 513: 414-417

Fruth B, Ikombe NB, Matshimba GK, Metzger S, Muganza DM, Mundry R, Fowler A (2014) New evidence for self-medication in bonobos: Manniophyton fulvum leaf- and stemstrip-swallowing from LuiKotale, Salonga National Park, DR Congo. Am J Primatol 76(2):146-58

Beaune D, Bretagnolle F, Bollache L, Hohmann G, Surbeck M, Bourson C & Fruth B. (2013). The bonobo-Dialium positive interactions: seed dispersal mutualism. American Journal of Primatology.

Beaune D, Bretagnolle F, Bollache L, Hohmann G, Surbeck M & Fruth B. (2013). Seed dispersal strategies and the threat of defaunation in a Congo forest. Biodiversity and Conservation 22(1):225-238.

Beaune D, Fruth B, Bollache L, Hohmann G & Bretagnolle F. (2013). Doom of the elephant-dependent trees in a Congo tropical forest. Forest Ecology and Management 295: 109-117.

Beaune D, Bollache L, Fruth B & Bretagnolle F. (2012). Bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus) seed predation of bush mango (Irvingia gabonensis) and other plant species in Democratic Republic of Congo. African Journal of Ecology 50: 509-512.

Beaune D, Bollache L, Bretagnolle F & Fruth B. (2012). Dung beetles are critical in preventing post-dispersal seed removal by rodents in Congo rain forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology 28: 507-510.

Fruth B. (2012). La Convention sur la Diversité Biologique en République Démocratique du Congo: Mise en oeuvre du projet «La Cuvette Centrale comme réservoir de plantes médicinales».  Ethnopharmacologia 48: 27-37.

Laurance WF, Carolina Useche D, Rendeiro J, Kalka M, Bradshaw CJA, Sloan SP, Laurance SG, Campbell M, Abernethy K, Alvarez P et al. (2012). Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas. Nature 489(7415): 290-294.

Muganza DM, Fruth B, Lami JN, Mesia GK, Kambu OK, Tona GL, Kanyanga RC, Cos P, Maes L, Apers S & Pieters L. (2012). In vitro antiprotozoal and cytotoxic activity of 33 ethonopharmacologically selected medicinal plants from Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 141(1): 301-308.

Fruth B, Mato B, Lukoki F, Lejoly J & Muganza M. (2011). Care for health and body: an ethnobotanical approach to Nkundo plant use (Cuvette Centrale, DRC) with focus on the significance of indigenous knowledge for the human skin. Curare 34(4):261-281.

Fruth B. (2011b). The CBD in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): the project “The Cuvette Centrale as a reservoir of medicinal plants” in the process of implementation. Curare 34(1+2):51-62.

Oelze VM, Fuller BT, Richards MP, Fruth B, Surbeck M, Hublin JJ & Hohmann G. (2011). Exploring the contribution and significance of animal protein in the diet of bonobos by stable isotope ratio analysis of hair. PNAS 108(24):9792-9797.

Book Chapters & Conference Proceedings (past 5 years)

Fruth B. (2015) Un pouvoir au féminin. Pour la Science Nº 86: 64-68

Fruth B.  Das Kongobecken und seine Regenwälder in Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft. Christian Feest & Christine Kron (editors). Regenwald: Begleitbuch zur Sonderausstellung im Ausstellungszentrum Lokschuppen Rosenheim | 20. März bis 29. November 2015; pp. 110-119.

Fruth B. Primaten: Verwandtschaft aus dem Regenwald. Christian Feest & Christine Kron (editors). Regenwald: Begleitbuch zur Sonderausstellung im Ausstellungszentrum Lokschuppen Rosenheim | 20. März bis 29. November 2015; pp. 131-135.

Fruth B, Williamson EA & Richardson M. (2013). Bonobo Pan paniscus in: Mittermeier RA & Wilson DE, editors. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions

Liebs V, Bikandu B, Lassa L, Lukoki F, Schareika N & Fruth B. (2013). Signifying competence: urban herbalists seeking affirmation in Kinshasa in: Obrist B, Macamo E & Arlt V, editors. Living the City. Zürich: Lit Verlag. pp. 213-234.

Hohmann G & Fruth B. (2011). Is blood thicker than water? In: Robbins MM & Boesch C, editors. Among African Apes: Stories and Photos from the Field. Berkeley: University of California Press. p 61-76.

Fruth B. (2011) Die CBD in der Demokratischen Republik Kongo: Das Projekt „Die Cuvette Centrale als Heilpflanzenreservoir“ im Umsetzungsprozess. In: Paulsch A. & Paulsch C, editors, Das Übereinkommen über die Biologische Vielfalt (CBD) – ein Einstieg für Wissenschaftler. Regensburg: Ibn Schriftenreihe Band 01: 134-146.

Fruth B, Mato B & Muganza M. (2010). Nkundo plant use (Cuvette Centrale, DRC) with a focus on indigenous knowledge and the application of aphrodisiacs. In: Brüne M, Salter F & McGrew WC, editors. Building Bridges between Anthropology, Medicine and Human Ethology. Bochum: The University Press. p 211-226.

Public Reports & Other Publications

Fruth B. (2011a). Die Cuvette Centrale als Heilpflanzenreservoir: Ergebnisumsetzung & Projektabschluss (BMBF-Schlussbericht; FKZ 01LC0022 A2). 87 p.

Fruth B., Benishay, J.M., Bila-Isia, I., Coxe, S., Dupain, J., Furuichi, T., Hart, J., Hart, T., Hashimoto, C., Hohmann, G., Hurley, M., Ilambu, O., Mulavwa, M., Ndunda, M., Omasombo, V., Reinartz, G., Scherlis, J., Steel, L. & Thompson, J. (2008). Pan paniscus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.Version 2012.2.

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