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On 'Oprah,' an Interview With an Ape Who Can "Talk" to Humans (VIDEO)

by Oliver Miller, posted Oct 5th 2010 12:01AM
On 'Oprah,' an Interview With an Ape Who Can 'Talk' to HumansOn today's 'Oprah' (weekdays, syndicated), correspondent Lisa Ling met Kanzi, a 29-year-old ape who has lived with humans for his entire life. Kanzi is a Bonobo -- an endangered ape that can only be found in the Congo. Amazingly, Kanzi can talk with people. He can understand human speech and form sentences of his own. Incredible.

Ms. Ling meets Kanzi and his human trainer, Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. Dr. Sue taught Kanzi to speak using "lexigrams," which are symbols on a computer. Kanzi presses the buttons to form full thoughts. For example, if he was hungry for pizza, he would combine the symbols for "cheese," "tomato," and "bread."

According to Dr. Sue, Kanzi knows "several thousand" words, giving him the same vocabulary level as a human toddler. Sue taught Kanzi his skills simply by speaking with him "the same way that I did with my son. ... He just was around me and learned it, like a child." Dr. Sue hopes that by studying Kanzi, she can figure out the differences between humans and apes, and their similarities as well.

Ling talks with Kanzi, plays with him, and meets Kanzi's adorable 3-month-old son, Teco. It's all very innocent and sweet. But ...

... But we do have some additional bonus footage for you. After visiting Kanzi, Lisa went back to the studio and spoke with Oprah Winfrey, where she revealed that the ape "made a pass" at her. Whoa. Yep, not only did Kanzi hit on Lisa, he also hit on her male cameraman! Apparently, Bonobos are very flirty, which is why we don't see them in zoos very often -- their "sexiness" kind of freaks people out. Oh well. Maybe if Kanzi keeps studying the human language, he can come up with some better pick-up lines.

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