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Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind
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Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  109 ratings  ·  10 reviews
The remarkable story of a "talking" chimp, a leading scientist, and the profound insights they have uncovered about our speciesHe has been featured in cover stories in Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic, and has been the subject of a "NOVA" documentary. He is directly responsible for discoveries that have forced the scientific community to recast its thinking about th ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Wiley (first published November 1st 1994)
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Aug 19, 2007 Rob rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: armchair linguists
Shelves: missing, science
Complex subject matter discussed adeptly and in-depth while keeping the language and concepts clear enough for a lay-person. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh manages to raise critical questions about the nature of language (and language acquisition) in this analysis of her work with Kanzi, taking special care not to anthropomorphize the bonobo too much. Beyond the intriguing scientific discussion, the book is also an engaging story about the author's work and the relationship she has built with her subject.

Mehwish Mughal
Sue Savage-Rumbaugh manages to rigorously question the idea of human uniqueness and gives an insight on the great work that she has been part of despite the opposition from various fields. The concepts are clearly conveyed and the methodology is well reported.

I had several “awe” moments and this book definitely re-emphasized my decision to “enter” primatology as a field.
Joe Iacovino
Surprisingly more global than I had presumed. Although the bonobo Kanzi gives his name to the title of the book, the book itself allows itself intelligent extrapolation of the data he provided. All in all it was an interesting mix of data, anecdote, evolutionary history, as awareness plea, and philosophy. This was an easy read which flowed well. I was simply surprised about how much information there was with regard to things learned through the research with, and directly from, Kanzi. My only c ...more
Emily Murray
I read this book for a Primatology course in graduate school. Kanzi was truly an amazing chimpanzee, one of the few capable of grasping human language. Sue-Savage Rumbaugh continues with her research today, though Kanzi is no longer living, in efforts to determine how humans acquired language in the past and how it has helped our species succeed.
I had my students read portions of this for Animal Behavior. Ideally, the book should be read cover-to-cover. Savage-Rumbaugh writes in a very accessible way. She is convincing, without being abrasive. If you are interested in linguistics, tool use, or evolution, this is a really good one to tackle.
Rebecca Proulx
Great blend of scientific method evidence but also observational evidence, both of which are key indications of the intelligence and behavior of animals. Kanzi sounds like an amazing bonobo :)
The amazing compacity of great apes for language comprehension. the difference between language production and language comprehension.
I read most of it. It was interesting, but I did not like it much.
Ellen Quigley
LOVE this so far, reading things most people wouldn't believe!
Savage-Rumbaugh seems insane to me.
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“We do not realize how deeply our starting assumptions affect the way we go about looking for and interpreting the data we collect. We should recognize that nonhuman organisms need not meet every new definition of human language, tool use, mind, or consciousness in order to have versions of their own that are worthy of serious study. We have set ourselves too much apart, grasping for definitions that will distinguish man from all other life on the planet. We must rejoin the great stream of life from whence we arose and strive to see within it the seeds of all we are and all we may become.” 32 likes
“The distinctiveness that we have so assiduously ascribed to ourselves as humans is, in reality, an accident of history. Imagine, for instance, how much more distinct we could have claimed our species to be had all the great apes become extinct before we began pondering our position in the world of nature. If vervet monkeys were our closet relatives, humans would indeed appear to stand separate. Equally, if the species of hominid that links us to our common ancestor with the African apes had not become extinct, the gap between us and chimpanzees would be closed all the way. Gradations between human and ape would be present at every step, and our revered distinctiveness would vanish. It is simply a contingent fact of history that certain species did become extinct during the past five million years, leaving us to compare ourselves with the African apes as our closest living relatives. And it is a sobering fact of current history that the comparison between humans and apes may soon become virtually artificial, as each species of ape faces extinction in its natural populations. If this happens, it means we will lose the opportunity to learn about ourselves from our nearest living relatives, just at the time that we have indeed recognized them as our relatives. It also means that we will have frittered away our one remaining chance to allow our sibling species to live the way of life for which they, and we, co-evolved across the millennia.” 2 likes
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