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Born October 28, 1980 (1980-10-28) (age 28)
Flag of the United States Georgia State University

Kanzi (born October 28, 1980), is a male Bonobo who has been featured in several studies on great ape language. According to Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a primatologist who has studied the bonobo throughout his life, Kanzi has exhibited advanced linguistic aptitude.[1][2]


[edit] Biography

Born to Lorel and Bosandjo at Yerkes field station at Emory University and moved to the Language Research Center at Georgia State University, Kanzi was stolen and adopted shortly after birth by a more dominant female, Matata. As an infant, Kanzi accompanied his mother to sessions where she was taught language through keyboard lexigrams, but showed little interest in the lessons.

It was a great surprise to researchers then when one day, while Matata was away, Kanzi began competently using the lexigrams, becoming not only the first observed ape to have learned aspects of language naturalistically rather than through direct training, but also the first observed bonobo to appear to use some elements of language at all.[1][2] Within a short time, Kanzi had mastered the ten words that researchers had been struggling to teach his adoptive mother, and he has since learned more than two hundred more. When he hears a spoken word (through headphones, to filter out nonverbal clues), he points to the correct lexigram.

Also notable are Kanzi's ability to understand aspects of spoken language and associate it with lexigrams, his ability to understand simple grammatical sentences, and possibly his invention of novel vocalized words.[1][2] According to a Discover article, Kanzi is an accomplished tool user.[3]

Kanzi is Panbanisha's adopted brother. Kanzi, his mother, and sister now live at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. Kanzi is the alpha male of the resident community of Bonobos. His mother, Matata, is the chief leader (in the matriachal society of bonobos, a male's position is primarily determined by the position of the females he is related to). According to the Smithsonian magazine, Kanzi "has the mien of an aging patriarch - he's balding and paunchy with serious, deep-set eyes." [4]

[edit] Examples of Kanzi's behavior

  • In an outing in the Georgia woods, Kanzi touched the symbols for "marshmallows" and "fire." Susan Savage-Rumbaugh said in an interview that, "Given matches and marshmallows, Kanzi snapped twigs for a fire, lit them with the matches and toasted the marshmallows on a stick."[5]
  • Paul Raffaele, at Savage-Rumbaugh's request, performed a Maori War Dance for the Bonobos. This dance includes thigh-slapping, chest-thumping, and hollering. Almost all the bonobos present interpreted this as an aggressive display, and reacted with loud screams, tooth-baring, and pounding the walls and floor. All but Kanzi, who remained perfectly calm; he then communicated with Savage-Rumbaugh using bonobo vocalizations; Savage-Rumbaugh understood these vocalizations, and said to Raffaele "he'd like you to do it again just for him, in a room out back, so the others won't get upset.” So a private performance in another room was successfully, peacefully and happily carried out.[5]
  • Sue Savage-Rumbaugh has observed Kanzi in communication to his sister. In this experiment, Kanzi was kept in a separate room of the Great Ape Project and shown some yogurt. Kanzi started vocalizing the word "yogurt" in an unknown "language"; his sister, who could not see the yogurt, then pointed to the lexigram for yogurt.[5]
  • Kanzi's accomplishments also include tool use and tool crafting. Kanzi is an accomplished stone tool maker and is quite proud of his ability to flake Oldowan style cutting knives. He learned this skill from Dr. Nick Toth, who is an anthropologist with the Stone Age Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. The stone knives Kanzi creates are very sharp and can cut animal hide and thick ropes.
  • In one demonstration shown on the television show Champions of the Wild, Kanzi was shown playing the arcade game Pac-Man and understanding how to beat it.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Savage-Rumbaugh, S., & Lewin, R., (1994). Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-58591-2. 
  2. ^ a b c Mitani, J. (1995). "Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind". Scientific American 272 (6). ISSN 0036-8733. 
  3. ^ "Ape at the Brink". Discover. September 1994. 
  4. ^ Raffaele, Smithsonian, November 2006.
  5. ^ a b c Raffaele, P (November, 2006). Speaking Bonobo. Simithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/10022981.html. Retrieved on 2008-03-18. 

[edit] Further reading

  • de Waal, Frans (2005). Our Inner Ape, ISBN 1-57322-312-3.
  • Raffaele, Paul (2006), "The Smart and Swinging Bonobo", Smithsonian, Volume 37, Number 8 (November 2006 -- a general article about bonobos).

[edit] External links

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