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Bonobo Panbanisha 2055.jpg
Panbanisha at age 20
BornNovember 17, 1985
United States
DiedNovember 6, 2012 (aged 26)
Nathen (died May 15, 2009)
RelativesMatata (mother)
Kanzi (half- brother)
Bonobos Kanzi (C) and Panbanisha (R) with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and the outdoor symbols "keyboard"

Panbanisha (November 17, 1985 – November 6, 2012),[1][2] also known by the lexigram LexigramPanbanisha-sm.jpg, was a female bonobo that featured in studies on great ape language by Professor Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. She was born at Language Research Center at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.[3] Panbanisha was the daughter of Matata, the adopted mother of the famous Kanzi, and was the mother of two sons, Nyota and Nathen. She lived at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. Panbanisha died of a respiratory disease at the Great Ape Trust on November 6, 2012. She was 26.[4]


The basis of the early research, headed by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a US anthropologist, was to study the language faculties of non-human primates and find out to what extent their upbringing affects their ability to use language. When Panbanisha was born, her brother Kanzi was already learning to communicate. By the time research with Panbinisha started, Kanzi knew 256 lexigram symbols.[5] Savage-Rumbaugh co-reared Panbanisha with a common chimpanzee, "Panpanzee" or "Panzee" for five years in an environment with other bonobos and with human teachers.[6] The teachers used keyboards with lexigrams on them in tandem with spoken communication in order to allow the two apes to communicate back to them, and to allow them to learn to comprehend spoken and symbolic language.[7] Of the two, Panbanisha showed greater linguistic capability, and was able to comprehend far more spoken language and lexigrams than her counterpart, Panzee. After the five years of study Panzee was removed from the study. Panzee lives at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. Data was taken on Panbanisha for a further six years with her adopted half brother Kanzi.[6]

The keyboards now in use contain a few hundred symbols, and the linguistic capability of these two is quite good.[7] They are able to recognise not only digitised and spoken speech, but also the use of solely lexigrams from the keyboard. At the beginning of research Panbanisha was able to use 256 symbols on the lexigram.[5] The researchers claim that the experiments with these apes show that the gap between the genus Pan and our early hominid ancestors, and even ourselves, is much smaller than we had previously realised.

From birth Panbanisha was introduced to complex communication. Starting at such a young age she became far more advanced in her knowledge of communication than her adopted brother Kanzi. At the age of 7.5 years old Panbanisha could correctly respond to 75% sentences that required more than just yes or no answers.[5] Human children at the age of two respond to similar questions with a success rate of 65%.[citation needed]

Panbanisha also exhibited the ability to remember and talk about past events. For example, when Bill Fields, one of her researchers, asked Panbanisha what was wrong, she replied “Kanzi bad keyboard”. After she said that, Mr. Fields asked another researcher what had happened with Kanzi and the keyboard. He was then told that Kanzi had broken it.[8]

Panbanisha was also important on the animal rights front. During the time that she was alive, there was a lot of controversy regarding animal rights. One afternoon Julie Cohen went to visit a fourteen year old Panbanisha and her one year old baby Nyoto. Before this visit Julie had thought that people should treat animals with the respect and care that they deserved, but that legal rights for animals seemed too extreme.

Julie was very surprised to see that when the photographer she was with complimented Panbanisha and told her he would get her a drink, Panbanisha promptly replied “Coffee, milk, and juice with no ice”. She also realized that she had anticipated Panbanisha’s language abilities to be much less than they really were. She quickly realized this after Panbanisha expressed her sadness at leaving Kanzi, a male Bonobo who was her companion, out of the game of hide and seek they were playing which would upset him and make him feel left out.

These interactions with Panbanisha made Julie Cohen realize that just because an animal may not have the same innate language abilities as humans, does not mean that they cannot think, understand, or have feelings. Panbanisha made it clear to her and other humans we should not judge an animal on their language capabilities.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cohen, Julie (May 2000). "Monkey Puzzles". Geographical. 72 (5): 58.
  2. ^ "Remembering Panbanisha". November 10, 2012.
  3. ^ Koth, Nicholas; Schick, Kathy. "In Memoriam: Panbisha 1985-2012". Stoneage Institute. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Last, Cadell. "Communicating with Bonobos". The Advanced Apes. Retrieved 2015-12-02.
  6. ^ a b Watanabe, Shigeru (2012). Watanabe, S.; Kuczaj, S., eds. Emotions of Animals and Humans: Comparative Perspectives. Springer. pp. 117–118. ISBN 9784431541233.
  7. ^ a b Savage-Rumbaugh, S., and Lewin, R. (1994) The Ape At The Brink of The Human Mind, John Wiley and Sons, Toronto. ISBN 0-471-15959-X
  8. ^ Humphries, Stephen (20 January 2000). "Linguistic Comprehension in Chimps". Christian Science Monitor. 92 (40): 13.

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