Isabel Behncke Izquierdo

Researcher, University of Oxford
Santiago, Chile

About Isabel


I was born and raised enjoying the nature of Chile and was educated in animal behaviour and evolutionary anthropology in Cambridge and Oxford. For my PhD work i study the social behaviour (and play behaviour in particular) of wild bonobos in DR Congo. Bonobos are, together with chimpanzees, our living closest relatives, however we know very little about them – mostly through captive work. In Wamba, a most remote jungle location l have observed unique aspects of bonobo lives (from imaginary play and laughter to inter-group encounters to accidents and death) that challenge and illuminate our understanding of human evolution. I aim to link the play of adult bonobos to insights on human laughter, joy, creativity and our capacity for wonder and exploration. I live in Oxford where there are many cafes and pubs wonderful for conversation - just let me know if you are passing by.


English, French, Spanish

TED Conferences

TEDGlobal 2012, TED2011

Areas of Expertise

human behaviour, bonobos, Primate Behaviour, evolution , Fun, Creativity & Innovation, relationships, Exploration, nature

An idea worth spreading

Play behaviour is our 'Adaptive Joker' - a biological wildcard which holds the key to our capacity to adapt to a changing world.

I'm passionate about

Passion. A life worth living. Exploration, creativity, laughter, nature, animals, wild and the wilderness.

Talk to me about

A life worth living, creativity, play, exploration, nature, human behaviour, openness to experience, inspiration, change

People don't know I'm good at

Dancing for hours, taming parrots, seeking the moment, bringing eclectic people together, making a fire, spreading the fun.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

Isabel Behncke Izquierdo
Posted 9 months ago
Laurel Braitman: Depressed dogs, cats with OCD — what animal madness means for us humans
Dear Anne, Humans are indeed complex thinking individuals - but they are also animals. We are wonderfully complex animals, and depression in us is serious, and depression in other complex animals such as parrots and apes is also serious. For sure that OCD might not be as complex in non-human animals than in us, but is a complete non-sequitor to follow with that takes away from the seriousness of the condition in humans - it doesn't and that is not what the speaker was suggesting. We do not need to lower non-human animals to satisfy our fragile human animal ego. Humans are animals and all the better for it - it gives, not detracts. Best regards Isabel
Isabel Behncke Izquierdo
Posted over 4 years ago
Isabel Behncke: Evolution's gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans
Dear Judith, I am the speaker. Wow, i am really sorry i gave the wrong impression. I am a scientist and i am passionately serious about the science behind what i do. Unfortunately i realise now i made the mistake of trying to make a playful talk that would inspire people to learn more about the subjects. Unfortunately in 6 minutes there is not too much you can do! Its very difficult to communicate complexities and nuances in such a short time. I am very happy to send you serious scientific articles if you are interested. Lastly i am also sorry since i am not only a scientist but also a woman and from latin america. I am passionate about life in general and so my style may have been too much. But i never thought i would get such bad responses, specially from a woman. Bonobos are a truly interesting species, would be glad so send stuff.