Team of the LuiKotale Bonobo Project

Prof. Dr. Barbara Fruth

Group Leader
+49 7531-94505-20

I am a behavioural ecologist and evolutionary anthropologist, interested in bonobo social behaviour, their ecological constraints, their role within the ecosystem, and their life history. One of my foci is their food repertoire ranging from items ingested for nutritional to those used for medicinal purpose. For this, I follow an interdisciplinary approach integrating herbaria, analyses of plant’s phytochemical and pharmacological properties, and their effect on growth, health and fitness of individual bonobos.

Nutritional Ecology • Conservation • Life history • Community Ecology • Bonobos


Nadia Balduccio

Doctoral Student

I am an ecologist specialized in tropical ecosystems. I investigated a diverse array of wildlife in South America, Africa and Asia, putting conservation at the forefront of my work. In my PhD, I focus on the effect of human (Homo sapiens) hunting on mammal abundance and movement patterns. In the wider study site of the LuiKotale Bonobo Project, DRC, I assess the mammal community across areas that have been protected for different lengths of time. 

Conservation • Monitoring • Mammal Community Hunting

Mattia Bessone

Doctoral Student

I am a wildlife biologist interested in wildlife ecology, conservation, and monitoring methods. In my research, I investigate the ecological and anthropogenic drivers affecting the viability of rain-forest species in Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a focus on the bonobo (Pan paniscus). I apply an integrated approach making use of traditional and novel survey and analytical methods to evaluate caveats and potential improvements for the conservation of wild populations.  

Bonobo Monitoring methods Conservation Integrated Population Models

Melodie Kreyer

Doctoral Student

I am a behavioral ecologist focusing on the impact of health and disease on animals’ behavior. In the context of the rapid environmental changes we observe in recent years, the study of health in wild animals has become of tremendous importance for their conservation. All great ape species are endangered or critically endangered, with the transmission of diseases from human to ape being one of the main threats. I am particularly interested in studying self-medicative behavior in bonobos (Pan paniscus), investigating how they manage to maintain and recover their health in their natural habitat, the evergreen rainforests in Central DRC. 

Bonobo Health Self-medication Sickness behavior

Sonya Pashchevskaya

MSc Student

My main interest is social behaviour of bonobos (Pan paniscus): its evolution, structure and functions. I am fascinated by the dynamics of bonobo networks: how their properties change with ecological factors and how individuals’ positions vary in the potential influence on network structure. Using my mathematical background, I apply social network analysis to study global and local patterns of associations and interactions between individuals within a community. For my MSc thesis, I focused on how network characteristics influence disease spread in the bonobos of LuiKotale. 

Bonobo Network analysis Social behaviour

Kathrine Stewart

IMPRS Doctoral Student

I am a behavioral ecologist broadly interested in how group-living animals make decisions. Currently, I study foraging decisions by wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) to better understand how individuals optimize their nutrient intake and energetic costs as food availability varies, and how these individual foraging decisions influence group fission-fusion dynamics. I am also investigating how social and environmental factors influence groups’ decisions about when and how to interact with one another. 

Decision-making • Foraging Behavior • Bonobos 

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