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Just a cuddle? Or something worse? Wildlife Photographer of the Year photo finalist has some wondering

Christian Ziegler's photo of a bonobo holding a mongoose won “Highly Commended Image”
Britain Whale
Posted at 8:30 PM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 20:34:52-04

An image of a bonobo in the wild, cradling another species (a baby mongoose) has captured attention as the photograph has become a finalist in the Wildlife Photographer of the year contest 2022 held at Britain's National History Museum (NHM).

The photographer, Christian Ziegler, already won “Highly Commended Image” in the 58th iteration of the contest, which nominates 100 entries to judge out of tens of thousands of submissions for the prize.

The curiosity came around about how the primate came to be holding the little animal and where the mother was. Had she been killed?

According to the NHM, Ziegler tracked a group of bonobos into a flooded forest and spotted a young male bonobo holding a mongoose pup.

Ziegler said, "'The bonobo held and stroked the little mongoose for more than an hour."

He said it was "carrying the pup carefully as it climbed a tree to eat fruit."

According to NHM, bonobos are mainly herbivorous and mostly feed on plants. However, they have been observed hunting at times.

Ziegler said he observed the primate eventually released the pup unharmed and theorized that it might have been taken when the mongoose mother was killed.

Dr. Barbara Fruth, director of the LuiKotale Bonobo Project, told the BBC, "We know from captivity that bonobos care for individuals other than their own species."

Fruth said that in the wild, it's a different story for the species.

Ziegler said he had been tracking the group of bonobos wading chest-deep in water in the flooded forest while on a days-long photography expedition in the Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"I was so surprised to see how he carried the mongoose with such care. I immediately started to follow him and document it," he said.

Fruth said the bonobo might have been planning to eat the mongoose pup, as they have been observed hesitating before killing, after catching their prey when hunting. Bonobos have been observed, experts say, starting to eat their prey while still alive.

According to the BBC, Fruth has been observing these animals for over two decades.