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Orangutans offer insight into human speech at Indianapolis Zoo

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 18:03:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — All thanks to Orangutans and a Kazoo, some fascinating research is taking place at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Scientists worked with Rocky, 11, and Knobi, 36, at the orangutan center at the zoo to unveil new evidence in understanding human speech.

They analyzed and used their voice to play a basic musical instrument, the Kazoo.

Researchers found that great apes can similarly control their voice as humans do, giving a unique insight into the evolution of human language.

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“This important study redefines our understanding of how spoken language may have evolved. It also demonstrates that the abilities of orangutans, and likely all great apes, have been greatly underestimated,” Dr. Rob Shumaker, Indianapolis Zoo President, said. “This new knowledge compels us to have a stronger conservation ethic at a time when all wild great ape populations face serious threats to their survival.”

The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center at Indianapolis Zoo is home to one of the largest groups of orangutans in any American zoo.