[Paleopsych] AP: Great apes to learn human behaviors
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Thu Apr 21 22:44:41 UTC 2005
Here's today's batch.
Great apes to learn human behaviors - Apr 20, 2005
Kanzi is one of the bonobos taking part in the unique language
The Great Ape Trust external link
Bonobos are the most human-like species of ape.
The great apes are also known as pygmy chimpanzees.
A distinguishing feature of the bonobo is the species black face and
red lips, and a prominent tail tuft which is retained by adults.
Population estimate: 10,000-50,000
Natural habitat: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Bonobos existence is threatened by bushmeat hunters and habitat loss.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh sounds like a proud
mother when she speaks about her brood of bonobos, eight
ultra-intelligent apes that will take part in unique language research
meant to shed light on their nature and maybe our own.
The first two bonobos will make the 16-hour road trip from the
Language Research Center at Georgia State University to their new $10
million, 13,000-square-foot home near downtown Des Moines later this
month. All eight -- three females and five males -- will arrive at the
Great Ape Trust of Iowa by mid-May.
Bonobos, a species of ape from the Congo, are the most like humans,
Savage-Rumbaugh said. They constantly vocalize "as though they are
conversing" and often walk upright.
"If you want to find a human-like creature that exists in a completely
natural state ... that creature is the bonobo," said Savage-Rumbaugh,
an experimental psychologist who is one of the world's leading
If the apes are able to learn language, music and art, once thought to
be distinct to humans, then "it strongly suggests that those things
are not innate in us," she said.
"Those are things that we have created, and create anew and build upon
from one generation to the next ..." she said. "Then we have the power
to change it and make it any other way. We could have an ideal world,
if we but learn how to do it."
The bonobos will be able to cook in their own kitchen, tap vending
machines for snacks, go for walks in the woods and communicate with
researchers through computer touchscreens. The decor in their 18-room
home includes an indoor waterfall and climbing areas 30 feet high.
The longevity of the project is unlike any other.
The animals, which have a life span of up to about 50 years, will be
allowed to mate and have families -- and develop cultures that will be
studied for generations to come, Savage-Rumbaugh said.
Visitors are allowed, but they must understand that the Great Ape
Trust is not a zoo, she said.
Using a network of cameras and computers, the bonobos can see visitors
who ring the doorbell -- and will be able to choose through a computer
touchscreen who will be permitted into a secured viewing area.
"Only if they want to open the door can you enter," Savage-Rumbaugh
Karen Killmar, an associate curator at the San Diego Zoo, said the
Great Ape Trust is unlike other research programs.
"There's studies all over the place in terms of intelligence and
learning ability and behavior," she said, "but to be able to sort of
pull it all together in one place I think is a wonderful opportunity
to give us a much clearer picture of what our closest relatives are."
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