Eulogy for Panbanisha

Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Media Releases | No Comments

from the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary:
A tribute to a priceless and irreplaceable treasure

Panbanisha, a beloved and gentle soul, and a member of a famous bonobo family in the US, tragically and suddenly passed away from complications related to pneumonia on the evening of November 6, 2012. She had shown signs of illness for about two days prior to her death. At the time of her death, she was attended to by her veterinarian and she was surrounded by the humans who had raised her and who loved her most in life, and whose love she returned with equal and unselfish conviction.

Panbanisha was born on November 17, 1985 at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She moved with the rest of her bonobo family to the Great Ape Trust (now known as the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary) in 2005. Panbanisha is survived by her bonobo family at the IPLS (mother Matata, half-brothers Kanzi and Maisha, half-sister Elikya, son Nyota, and nephew, Teco) and her human family of care-takers and friends. Special mention should be made of Panbanisha’s extremely close, familial bond with Liz Rubert-Pugh, who spent countless hours working with, playing with, and simply loving Panbanisha since her birth, and who

was also with her at the time of her death. The bonobos are all grieving and mourning the loss of Panbanisha.

In Liz’s words, “Panbanisha was a most precious treasure. Her spirit was unique and through language, she had advanced into a highly advanced being, who understood and reacted to complex conversations with wisdom. Panbanisha was raised in a cross cultural world where humans, bonobos and chimpanzees all lived together, resulting in a penetration of the lines that are drawn between humans and other primates. Panbanisha was not just an animal to us. Instead, she was an extraordinary, moral being. Those who knew her well had no question as to the importance of her special gifts and her razor sharp, very human-like mind. There will never be another like her.”

Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh had the following to say about Panbanisha, “Even at five years of age, Panbanisha’s inner wisdom was great; it did not extol, it did not brag, it did not show off, and it did not subject itself to any kind of test visitors or other scientists sought to impose. It had a kind of quiet, deep self-dignity that the adult Panbanisha never abandoned, even for a moment – and it carried her to the other side with a grace and a sort of quiet composure achieved only by the most spiritual human beings I have known. Far outstripping my feeble attempts as a scientist to “prove” who Panbanisha was—she herself simply did whatever needed to be done that was the best for all in her world—bonobo and human alike. She was truly a selfless being. She gave her freedom up for the sake of science, but never her dignity. She remained a gentle soul with the greatest self-respect and humility regardless of circumstance. Her creations and her demonstrations of linguistic competence will be studied for years to come.”

The Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is a non-invasive, interdisciplinary and interspecies scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa, dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture and the impact culture has on the beings we become. Special focus is directed to areas of language, the creation and implementation of tools, musical and artistic creativity, and intelligence, all of which help answer the foundational question, “What makes us human?”

The bonobos are housed in a state-of the art facility that provides approximately 5,000 square feet indoors, and encompasses twenty different spaces, plus two outdoor areas that equal three acres. The facility is designed in many ways to mimic certain aspects of life in the wild, and includes many high, stable walkways, platforms and ropes to simulate, in part, the experience of being in trees, giving the bonobos the option to stay high above that which is occurring below. The outdoor area is also home to two heated caves.

It is infinitely important that Panbanisha’s memory and her legacy live on. A small, private memorial service will be held for Panbanisha at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary on Sunday, November 18th. IPLS will continue to keep the public informed about the status of the exhibitor’s license and is excited about the prospect of welcoming the public to the Sanctuary in the near future.

IPLS is fighting hard to keep this unique and priceless resource in Iowa, and the generous donations of the public can help make these goals a reality. Memorial contributions for Panbanisha can be made online at a tribute website created for Panbanisha at or can be mailed to the Bonobo Hope Endowment Fund, Attn: Panbanisha’s Memorial Fund, c/o The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, 1915 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309.

Any funds donated will be dedicated to the development of a formal visitor’s center and various special visitor education programs, with the intent that the public will soon be able to learn more about the bonobos’ unique personalities and capabilities, in an interactive and educational environment.

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