Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary

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Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary
Formation September 28, 2004; 9 years ago (2004-09-28)
Type Sanctuary
Legal status
Purpose dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence.
Headquarters USA
Location Des Moines,
Website [1]

Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is a sanctuary and scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa. It is dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence. Announced in 2002 and receiving its first ape residents in 2004, Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is home to a colony of six bonobos involved in noninvasive interdisciplinary studies of their cognitive and communicative capabilities. Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.


The Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) is situated on 230 acres and houses a family of six bonobos: Matata, Kanzi, Elikya, Maisha, Teco and Nyota. Three of the bonobos learned important elements of human culture during their crucial first year of life. As a youngster, Kanzi acquired language competency by simply watching humans attempt to teach language to Matata, the wild-caught grandmother of the family. Nyota is the first ape reared by both humans and a language-competent ape mother, and Kanzi's son, two year old Teco, provides a unique look into the epigenetic effects of language acquisition. All three of these bonobos communicate with humans using a collection of over 400 "lexigram" symbols printed on paper or appearing on computer touch screens. As has been repeatedly documented, these bonobos can think, make plans and understand simple spoken English.

Kanzi has been filmed making music, building a fire, and crafting simple stone tools. More than 400 scientific papers, as well as many books document the near human capabilities of the bonobos and films portraying their achievements have been broadcast worldwide. Extensive coverage by media and celebrities such as Oprah, Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes (in Australia), BBC, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel have provided much needed publicity to IPLS as it seeks further financial support to remain operational.

In early 2013 the USDA granted IPLS an Exhibitor's License and the facility hosts public visits weekly.


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