Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary

Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary
Formation September 28, 2004 (2004-09-28)
Type Sanctuary
Legal status 501(c)(3)
Purpose understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence
Headquarters USA
  • Des Moines

Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) 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. IPLS was announced in 2002 and received its first ape residents in 2004, and is currently home to a colony of six bonobos involved in non-invasive interdisciplinary studies of their cognitive and communicative capabilities. Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.


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 both by humans and a language-competent ape mother. 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.

It has been repeatedly documented that 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 and many books document the near-human capabilities of the bonobos, and films portraying their achievements have been broadcast worldwide. Television coverage includes features with Oprah, Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes (in Australia), BBC, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel.

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


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