Sue and Teco hiking, photo by Russ RuBert

Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2011.

She has devoted her life to studying primates and bonobos, working at for the Language Research Center at Georgia State University for 30 years before moving the bonono family to Iowa’s Great Ape Trust in 2005.

She has received various honors and awards for her work work including: Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Chicago and Missouri State University, invited speaker at the Nobel Conference XXXII, the Leighton A. Wilkie Award in Anthropology from Indiana University, and a feature in the Smithsonian Institution’s display of “Understanding Ourselves, Understanding Each Other.”

Through her years of work Savage-Rumbaugh has written a multitude of scientific articles with topics ranging from theories of evolution to the relationship between language comprehension in Apes and children, all aided by her work with bonobo monkeys and other primates. Her research, articles and appearances have helped her make a name for herself and the bonobos in the scientific community. And because of media attention, they have become somewhat of celebrities. Savage-Rumbaugh and the Apes have been featured on many TV shows including Oprah and Animal Planet’s ‘The Most Extreme.”One bonobo, Kanzi, even has his own facebook following.

As president of Bonobo Hope she wants people “to realize that we’re just on the cusp of understanding the most fascinating species on the planet—not that elephants and dolphins and others aren’t—but we’re on the cusp of understanding that species and we’re about to decimate it in the Congo and we’re about to let the special group that we have here, that has language skills and can talk to us, disappear.” That is why support of the apes and the creation of the Bonobo Hope Sanctuary is so necessary.

Savage-Rumbaugh’s study of primates has given the scientific community great insight into the language and learning capacity of apes. She has helped break the language barriers between humans and primates, and has provided a looking glass into their their complex and magnificently intelligent minds. The increased understanding of our closely related primates has brought us one step closer to understanding our own human nature.