Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind

Savage Sue Rumbaugh, Author, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Author, E. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Author John Wiley & Sons $35 (299p) ISBN 978-0-471-58591-6
When ape-language research fell into disfavor in the 1970s, Savage-Rumbaugh, associate professor of biology at Georgia State Univ. and a leading researcher in the field, set a new course, focusing on apes' ability to comprehend symbols. At the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, she worked with common chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimps), using a computer-based keyboard system. With Roger Lewin (coauthor with Richard Leakey of Origins), she tells the remarkable story of Kanzi, a bonobo who at 14 understands spoken English well enough that his teachers spell out words they don't want him to hear. He asks and answers questions and invents games by manipulating an electronic keyboard. His accomplishments prove chimps can spontaneously acquire language skills through social interaction in a language-rich environment. For readers interested in the origin of language and those who have followed Washoe, Koko and Lucy. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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