Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative

Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative
FormationSeptember 28, 2004; 14 years ago (2004-09-28)
Legal status501(c)(3)
Purposeunderstanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence
  • Des Moines

Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative is a sanctuary and scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa. It is dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence. The facility was announced in 2002 and received its first ape residents in 2004, and is currently home to a colony of six bonobos involved in non-invasive interdisciplinary studies of their cognitive and communicative capabilities.


Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative is situated on 230 acres and houses a family of five bonobos: Kanzi, Elikya, Maisha, Nyota, Teco, and Clara. Three of the bonobos learned important elements of human culture during their crucial first year of life. As a youngster, Kanzi acquired language competency by simply watching humans attempt to teach language to Matata, the wild-caught grandmother of the family. Nyota is the first ape reared both by humans and a language-competent ape mother. The youngest, Teco, provides a unique look into the epigenetic effects of language acquisition. All three of these bonobos communicate with humans using a collection of over 400 "lexigram" symbols printed on paper or appearing on computer touch screens.

It has been repeatedly claimed that these bonobos can think, make plans and understand simple spoken English. Kanzi has been filmed making music, building a fire, and crafting simple stone tools. More than 400 scientific papers and many books document the near-human capabilities of the bonobos, and films portraying their achievements have been broadcast worldwide. Television coverage includes features with Oprah, Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes (in Australia), BBC, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel.


External links