Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kanzi, a bonobo Superstar!

KANZI (whose name means "treasure" in Swahili) is a male bonobo who was born at the Yerkes Field Station at Emory University in Atlanta GA on October 28, 1980. (Bonobos are found in only one country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo - Africa's 2nd largest country) Kanzi has been featured in several studies on great ape language and is the world’s undisputed ape-language superstar! He was the first bonobo to acquire language much like children do: by being exposed to it.

Kanzi's parents were Lorel and Bosandjo but he was stolen and adopted shortly after birth by a more dominant female, Matata. As an infant, Kanzi accompanied Matata 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. 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.

Kanzi excels in research featuring novel sentences – that is, phrases that preclude the learning of specific responses. He also is adept at stone toolmaking, giving scientists insight into cognitive and biomechanical skills and constraints, and helping them better understand levels of skill in early prehistoric ancestors.

Not too long ago I saw a TV show about Kanzi (probably a National Geographic) and I found him to be, truly amazing. If you would like to read more about Kanzi, the barbequing bonobo, read the story here.

I have also posted this youtube showing Kanzi and Dr Sue Savage-Rumbaugh in which Kanzi demonstrates his ability and love of fire making as he roasts a marshmallow over the fire. Unbelievable (Smiles)

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