Kanzi the Bonobo

Name: Kanzi
Birthday: October 28, 1980
Favorite food: Onions
Favorite game: Chase
Favorite toy: Red ball

If there were a superstar within the bonobo community, Kanzi, which means “treasure” in Swahili, would certainly be it. Born in 1980, Kanzi came to Georgia State University’s Language Research Center at the age of six months. He is regarded as the first ape to demonstrate real comprehension of spoken speech.

Kanzi has been presented with a variety of carefully controlled tests which demonstrate his comprehension of speech. In these tests, spoken words are presented through headphones and Kanzi is requested to indicate the real object, the photo or the lexigram that the word represents. He is essentially 100 percent accurate on all words that are a part of vocabulary at any given age. Today, his vocabulary includes more than 500 words! His comprehension of spoken language is at least equivalent to that of a two-and-a-half-year-old child.

Kanzi’s achievements are not limited to language, but include tool use and tool manufacturing. Kanzi has shown skills as a stone tool maker and he is very proud of his ability to flake Oldowan style cutting knives. He learned to do this from Dr. Nick Toth, an anthropologist with The Stone Age Institute in Bloomington, IN. Kanzi’s stone knives are very sharp and he’s able to cut hide and thick ropes with them. He has also demonstrated his unspecified and musical skills, having played with Sir Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel.

Kanzi Ape Transformation

Sadly, during the last years, Kanzi became overweight. Since it is made a priority now to improve the bonobos’ welfare, Kanzi started on a species appropriate diet and increased his opportunities for physical activity, leading to his tremendous transformation – losing over 75 pounds!

Kanzi’s relatives:



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