Sally Jewell Coxe

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"When Sally Jewell Coxe was assigned to write copy for an upcoming book about a newly discovered species of the great ape, she had no inkling that it would take her on a path that would one day include teaching women in the Congo simple asanas.

"The year was 1992, the book was about bonobos, a primate closely related to humans—we share 98.4 percent of our DNA with them—and the story of these peaceful animals captivated Coxe, then a 32-year-old staff writer at National Geographic Books. “Bonobos are matriarchal, they are cooperative, they are pansexual—they are almost the polar opposite of chimps,” she says. “The females are empowered, they make love not war, and they are the only primate other than humans that have sex not just for procreation. I way over-researched, but along the way had an epiphany that this was what I was supposed to do—work with these wonderful creatures.” At the time, little was known about bonobos.

"She parlayed her connection with National Geographic into meeting the top people in the field, and by the next summer Coxe was a full-time volunteer at Georgia State University’s primate center where she was able to interact with bonobos up close and personal—as in play hide-and-seek with them, she recalls. “We interacted like friends—I found they really liked me,” she tells Yoga+ without a hint of embarrassment. How did she know? “We communicated through sign language, eye contact, body language. It was amazing to see how incredibly intelligent and sensitive they are—these are highly conscious beings.”

"Even with our scratchy phone connection, her passion for these peaceful primates came through as she spoke from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Two days later, she would leave for the bush to observe them with a small party of researchers and conservationists.

"Coxe is founder and president of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), dedicated to saving the “hippie” primate in its native habitat in the Congo Basin of the DRC, the only place in the world bonobos are found...

"Her close friendship with Gene Nash, who at the time was running the Keshavashram International Center, a meditation center near Washington, D.C. (it’s now a peace center), was the key to saving a good-sized chunk of the forest. ..

"One of the world’s leading primatologists, Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and author of several popular books, calls her the “perfect champion” of the endangered bonobos..." [1]

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