Kanzi making stone tools, photo by Liz Rubert-Pugh

Kanzi and is late sister Panbanisha begin making sophisticated stone tools last year during a research project by IPLS scientist Itai Roffman conducted at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary in Des Moines, Iowa. Roffman’s findings shocked scientists around the world, and news immediately went viral in the science world. At last count, there are over 700 references and features on websites around the world, including stories by Psychology Today, Wired, National Geographic, Smithsonian.com, New Scientist, International Science Times, and The Guardian.

The most exciting part of this finding was the Bonobos improvement in their tool-manufacturing capacity was completely spontaneous and untrained. It was not even the result of observational learning, but rather a simple, spontaneous, and significant improvement over their previously expressed capabilities.

Kanzi and Panbanisha accomplished in 10 years something which is comparable to what it took early Homo a million years to accomplish. IPLS Resident Scientist Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh suggests that this increased capacity is a natural outgrowth of culture wiring the plastic bonobo brain into a human-like way of thinking — through the vehicle of language which suggests structures, basic categories, and action plans in the mind.


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