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Kanzi takes pride in his Book of List painting


Kanzi, the 30-year-old bonobo who created the cover art for the Business Record’s 2011 Book of Lists, missed the Jan. 5 unveiling party for that publication.

But the artist was proud of his work and satisfied with the attention his painting received at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, his handlers at Great Ape Trust said.

“Why would he show such interest in doing (the paintings) and in the write-up that was in the Book of Lists, if he could not understand something of what was indeed occurring?” asked Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, the first scientist to conduct language research with bonobos.

Kanzi, who has lived at Great Ape Trust since 2005, finished two paintings commissioned by the Business Record, including one of his son, Teco, and one of Azy, an orangutan that in September was transferred from Great Ape Trust to the Indianapolis Zoo.

Savage-Rumbaugh said Kanzi had originally planned to paint a picture of a dog named Delila, but instead chose to create the likeness of Azy.

Based on her research, Savage-Rumbaugh said that Kanzi, who identified a photograph of a statue of Azy to indicate she was indeed the subject of his painting, also used his “voice” to share his intention.

“I went in with Kanzi and held up each painting along with 10 photos of different apes, dogs, places and things and asked Kanzi if any of these were what he painted,” she said. “He quickly chose the Azy statue for the first painting.”

Kanzi, who is able to comprehend 450 words and communicate to humans by pointing at symbols, is the first ape to demonstrate receptive competence of words spoken in English, according to Great Ape Trust.

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