Scientist and primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh joins the Great Ape Project

Posted in 12/01/2021


January 12, 2021 – Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Director of Project Kanzi, the bonobo who learned the language of symbols, joins the Great Ape Project as a scientific advisor and creates the GAP Project in the United States. Her experience and her advanced communication work with great primates, and especially with the bonobo Kanzi, enrich the GAP Project with leading scientists.

Sue’s excellent work in teaching symbol language to Kanzi makes her the first and only scientist to conduct language research with bonobos. She joined the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary in 2005, after a 23-year partnership with the Georgia State University Language Research Center (LRC). In 2011, she was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.

At LRC, Savage-Rumbaugh pioneered the use of a number of new technologies for working with primates. This includes a keyboard that provides speech synthesis, allowing animals to communicate using spoken English, and a “primate-friendly” computer-based joystick terminal, which allows for the automatic presentation of many different computerized tasks. centering on the abilities of non-human primates to acquire symbols, understand spoken words, decode simple syntactic structures, learn concepts of number and quantity and perform complex perceptual-motor tasks helped to change the way humans view other members of the primate order.

The GAP Project helped with the research by funding a special tablet for Kanzi’s son, Teco. For all these reasons, GAP welcomes Sue to the Board of the Great Ape Spain Project and will assist in any way possible for the project to start operating in the United States.