Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary is a non-invasive, interdisciplinary and interspecies scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa, dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture and the impact culture has on the beings we become. Special focus is directed to areas of language, the creation and implementation of tools, musical and artistic creativity, and intelligence, all of which help answer the foundational question, “What makes us human?”
Announced first in 2002, the City of Des Moines deeded over 200 acres of land to the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary for the improvement and study of primates and early human development and educational, public recreational and associated uses. An innovative new green building was designed for the bonobos by international architectural firm LeoA Daly, and a world-renounced family of bonobos, including Kanzi and Panbanisha moved to Iowa in 2005.
The bonobos are housed in a state-of the art facility that provides approximately 5,000 square feet indoors, and encompasses twenty different spaces, plus two outdoor areas that equal three acres. The facility is designed in many ways to mimic certain aspects of life in the wild, and includes many high, stable walkways, platforms and ropes to simulate, in part, the experience of being in trees, giving the bonobos the option to stay high above that which is occurring below. The outdoor area is also home to two heated caves.
Here is a photo of Kanzi using a tablet to communicate with lexigrams.