If there were a superstar within the bonobo community, Kanzi,
which means "treasure" in Swahili, would certainly be
it. Born in 1980, Kanzi came to Georgia State University's Language
Research Center at the age of six months. He is regarded as the
first ape to demonstrate real comprehension of spoken speech.
Kanzi has been presented with a variety of carefully controlled tests
which demonstrate his comprehension of speech. In these tests, spoken
words are presented through headphones and Kanzi is requested to indicate
the real object, the photo or the lexigram that the word represents.
He is essentially 100 percent accurate on all words that are a part
of vocabulary at any given age. Today, his vocabulary includes more
than 500 words! His comprehension of spoken language is at least equivalent
to that of a two-and-a-half-year-old child.
Kanzi's achievements are not limited to language, but include tool
use and tool manufacturing. Kanzi has shown skills as a stone tool
maker and he is very proud of his ability to flake Oldowan style cutting
knives. He learned to do this from Dr. Nick Toth, an anthropologist
with The Stone Age Institute in Bloomington, IN. Kanzi's stone knives
are very sharp and he’s able to cut hide and thick ropes with
them. He has also demonstrated his unspecified and musical skills,
having played with Sir Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel.