Monday, June 23, 2008
Great Ape Trust Bonobos Nervous, But Secure From Flood Waters
The riverside homes of the orangutans and bonobos were dry again Monday, three days after flooding dumped 3 feet of water on the Great Ape Trust in southeast Des Moines.
Scientists said the bonobos were nervous about the rising floodwaters. But orangutans Azy, Knobi and Allie, from a species that lives in flooded forest in the wild, took it all in stride.
"I don't think they were that affected," scientist Robert Shumaker said. "They are outside, sitting in the sun and watching us while we work."
Some of the bonobos communicate via symbol boards and understand some spoken English. Kanzi, a bonobo with ability to communicate with humans, expressed fear that a "water gorilla" would come around. That's what he calls beavers, and he's seen them fell trees, which he has indicated is an impressive feat. Kanzi also discussed the "big water" with William Fields, who directs the bonobo research.
"They understand we've had 'big water,' as they describe it" Fields said. "We had to tell them the water would stop."
The apes simply climbed to higher posts in the two buildings, a three-story one for the orangutans and a more ranch-style place for bonobos.
"They were very frightened," Fields said. "It was frightening to us."