Return to Transcripts main page


Amazing Animals

Aired November 25, 2010 - 15:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper. Welcome to our special report on Amazing Animals. Have you ever wondered what animals think, whether they have the capacity for abstract thought, whether they can learn language to communicate, whether they have a sense of self?

Well, in the next hour, you're going to hear the latest research and a lot of it is pretty remarkable. We're at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo. This is the spiny forest lemur exhibit.

In the hour ahead, you're going to meet lemurs and other animals and a number of scientists who are studying them, proving that some animals are capable of many things we thought were uniquely human.

We begin with two apes in Des Moines, Iowa. Some scientists believe have learned the ability to communicate using the English language.


COOPER (voice-over): This is Konzi and his younger half sister, Pambenecia. They're banobos cousins to the chimpanzee and an endangered species. Konzi and Pambenecia are also considered superstars in the world of science.


COOPER: Because they understand spoken English and they can communicate with humans by pointing and gesturing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you show me the pine cone? The pine cone? That's right.

COOPER: They live in a research center called the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. Banobos are sensitive animals and because Konzi and Pambenecia are considered so unique, the scientists who study them are careful not to upset them.

When we said we wanted to come for a visit, we were told the apes had to invite us. Hi, Konzi. Hi, Pambenecia. My name is Anderson. I work in television. I make TV tapes.

And to get an invitation, we should make a video introducing us to them.

I'd love to come to Iowa and meet you and tell your story so that people all around the world know who you are. I'd love to come and bring you surprises. Is there anything you'd like me to come and bring you?

We were also told to offer them a surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want surprises or is there anything you want me to bring? Is there something you want me to bring? You want him to come right now. You're looking out the door for him.

COOPER: Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh has dedicated her life to studying banobos.

DR. SUE SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH, GREAT APE TRUST: The first time I began to read about banobos in the wild and then I went actually to see them. I felt, my gosh, you know, it's -- it's like us in another form out there.

It's -- it's us in a banobo body. It's humans without all the overlays of human culture and how are we ever going to understand ourselves if we just clear the forest and we don't understand banobos.

COOPER: Her quest to understand started in 1980 with a scientific study on whether or not the species could acquire language. Along with her husband, she developed a Lexigram board basically a chart with about a dozen graphic symbols representing words. Her goal was to teach a female banobo named (Natada) English using the Lexigrams.

RUMBAUGH: I'd hold this up and ask her to hit the lexigram thousands and thousands of times for two years, every single day trying to train (Natada).

COOPER (on camera): That's Konzi's mother?

RUMBAUGH: That's Konzi's mother.

COOPER: And that didn't work?

RUMBAUGH: It didn't work.

COOPER (voice-over): (Natada) may not have known what she was doing, but it turns (Natada's) adopted son, Konzi, did. He was the one learning English.

RUMBAUGH: All of that time while I was speaking language, (Natada) wasn't learning it. Konzi was learning it and then Konzi paired the lexigrams with it. But, first he learned the spoken language.

COOPER (on camera): And did that surprise you?

RUMBAUGH: When it first happened, it surprised me completely.

COOPER: So how did Konzi learned?

RUMBAUGH: Konzi learned because we were just with her all the time as he was growing up and we were talking. We went for walks in the woods. We carried him. She carried him. We fed him food. She fed him food. We loved him. We stayed with him almost constantly. Just helping her. COOPER (voice-over): Part of the shocking discovery in Konzi skill was that he was so young. He was only nine months old when his mother started the language study. Scientists had always thought language skills could only be developed in older animals.

RUMBAUGH: Show me water. Good.

COOPER: The discovery prompted Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh to shift her study to how early and constant exposure impacts language development.

RUMBAUGH: You need bananas and raisins?

COOPER: To do that, she created an environment where the apes and humans are always socializing with each other.

RUMBAUGH: All right. Let's go. Bananas, raisins, bread.

The kind of research that we're doing, where it's really a bi-species culture, we live with them, talk with them, interact with them in very close ways, as you've seen.

And we take their communications at face value. This is the first time this kind of thing has been done. So we need to see where it can go.

That's right. Thank you.

COOPER: Seeing where it can go was also the advice we were given before arriving at the Great Ape Trust, but I've never seen banobos up close. After watching my video, we were told Konzi and Pambenecia wanted us to come and wanted me to bring them some surprises.

RUMBAUGH: Do you want to tell him on your keyboard what to bring? What? Green beans and pine needles.

COOPER: Including hard-boiled eggs, pine needles and a ball. All of which the Great Ape Trust said they'd provide.

COOPER (on camera): Hey, Konzi.

(voice-over): All I had to do was basically show up. It sounded easy.

(on camera): Wow.

(voice-over): I had no idea what else the apes wanted me to do.

(on camera): This is the weirdest thing I've ever --

RUMBAUGH: I could never have predicted what would have happened when Anderson Cooper came. I could never have done that.


COOPER: Up next, we'll show you how strange a turn my trip to the banobos took. We'll also show you some new insights into how dogs understand the world and why your furry best friend may be calling the shots more than you realize.

Also, take a look at the remarkable inner life of dolphins.


COOPER: I want to tell you about some of the remarkable research being done with dolphins right now. Scientists believe that dolphins are probably the most intelligent species after humans.

Their brains are not only big, they're extraordinarily complex. Researchers say that one of the things that sets dolphins apart from all but a few other animals is their strong sense of self. Randi Kaye went to investigate.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Spend the day with a dolphin, and you're quickly reminded of why they've always captured our imaginations. They are playful, sociable and just incredibly fun to be around, but scientists say there's a lot more to these animals.

And they're just beginning to understand the intricate thinking of these so-called big-brained mammals.

(on camera): Here you go, (Noni). Good girl.

KAYE: We came here to the Baltimore Aquarium to see just how intelligent dolphins are. You see them playing with their trainers all the time, but scientists who studied and say there's a lot more happening there than just play. That their intelligence actually rivals ours. Here you go.

To see up close what has scientists so excited, we climbed down into a tiny underwater lab with a window into the aquarium. Scientist Diana Reiss put as two-way mirror up against the glass. The dolphins can't see us, but Reese can study how the dolphins react to the mirror.

DIANA REISS, SCIENTIST, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK: We used to think we were the only species on the planet that could think. Now we know that we're amongst many thinking species. So the questions are no longer can they think, but how do they think and what's amazing is in this capacity, with given them mirrors, it looks like they're doing a lot of things very similar to us.

KAYE: Reiss has been studying dolphin's behavior for 25 years.

REISS: Most animals don't even pay attention to mirrors. So if you put a mirror in front of your dog, most dogs won't look in a mirror. Cats don't pay much attention. Other animals do pay attention, but never figure out it's themselves. They think it's another of their own kind.

KAYE: But dolphins do figure it out.

REISS: And not only do they figure out it's them, but they show interest to look at themselves. One thing is to understand it's themselves. It's another thing to say, I want to see what my face looks like or what is it looks like when I turn upside down and blow a bubble.

KAYE: We sat in awe as this group of dolphins explored themselves before us, unable to ignore the mirror. Several did hang upside down.

REISS: He's upside down. He's going to get wild now. He's been very innovative, watch this. Big show.

KAYE: Other dolphins open their mouth and stuck their tongue out. They put their eye on the mirror to get a closer look. Not convinced a dolphin can recognize itself in the mirror?

Take a look at this video of an earlier experiment from 2001. Scientists marked this dolphin on the side with a black pen, but did not mark the other. When released, the dolphin with the mark swims directly to the mirror and turns the mark towards the mirror like he's trying to take a look at what's been done to him.

The unmarked dolphin doesn't show the same behavior. Dolphins aren't the only big-brained mammals who recognize themselves. Elephants do, too. Watch what happens when Reiss tested them at the Bronx Zoo.

This one with a white x marked on his face turns toward the mirror over and over to take a look. Back at the Baltimore Aquarium, Reiss is now focusing her research on younger dolphins.

REISS: Bo is 5.

KAYE: Just like human children, younger dolphins make lots of movements and watch their reflection. They quickly learn they are watching themselves. What are you trying to figure out with the younger dolphins?

REISS: We're trying to figure out at what developmental age do they start figuring out that it's them in the mirror and when are they showing interest in the mirror?

KAYE: Foster, who is 3, started recognizing himself about the same time toddlers do, when he was about a year and a half. Reiss says some dolphins pick up on it at just six months, much earlier than children.

REISS: This is spirit. Now spirit's testing this. She's still figuring this out. What's funny is we recognize this because it's so similar to what kids do, what chimps do. It's amazing. They go through the same stages. These are animals that have been separated us from 95 years of evolution, big brains, processing things in similar ways.

KAYE: With a mirror providing a window into the dolphins' minds, Reiss believes she is discovering that their super high levels of intelligence are in many ways much like our own. And if that's true, the question is what does that tell us?

REISS: In the end, what this tells us is that we need to look at these animals in a new light with a new respect and really provide much more protection in terms of conservation efforts and welfare efforts for these animals and also appreciate that we're not at the top anymore. We're not alone. We're surrounded by other intelligence.

KAYE (on camera): Wow. So smooth. Beautiful.

(voice-over): Remember the old saying that it always seems like dolphins are smiling at you? Well, maybe they are. Randi Kaye, CNN, Baltimore.


COOPER: Coming up, how scientists figured out that lemurs don't like to gamble. Plus back to the Great Ape Trust in Iowa. I finally meet Konzi and Pambenecia face to face. They've asked me to bring surprises, but I'm the one who gets the biggest and strangest surprise of all.

RUMBAUGH: Who should be the bunny? Bunny? It's you.

COOPER: I'm the bunny?

RUMBAUGH: You are the bunny.

COOPER: How am I the bunny? Wow.


COOPER: Not all linguists and primatologists agree that apes have the capacity for language. It's the subject of heated scientific debate. That's why we wanted to Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa to see the research for ourselves. When we went there, we didn't realize that our trip there would take a very strange turn very quickly.


RUMBAUGH: Would you like to bargain for something really -- you would? You'd like to bargain for something really good to eat? OK.

COOPER (voice-over): Language is thought to be one of the major skills differentiating humans from all other species.

RUMBAUGH: Can you give some to the bunny? Can you give some pine needles to the bunny?

COOPER: A scientist here at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, Savage-Rumbaugh believes it's not just raw brain power that accounts for language skill. Human culture and child-rearing also play critical roles. To prove it, she's created a culture that's both human and banobo, spending nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week interacting with the apes.

RUMBAUGH: It is truly a humbling experience because I have throughout my life been like a skeptic. I've been a skeptic of other people's work with apes. And when I got into it as a graduate student, I really thought apes weren't doing what was claimed that they were doing.

So the first 15 years were spent looking at training. But once I started with Konzi and I abandon the training and I let language be what language really is, that's when the amazing things started to happen.

For many years even now, I have underestimated them. What did you want? Sweet potato.

COOPER: Videos like this one push Savage-Rumbaugh's work and Konzi into the spotlight. There have been several books and Konzi is now called the ape language superstar.

RUMBAUGH: Put your ball in the oil. Very nice. Thank you.

COOPER: As Konzi's language comprehension grew so this Lexigram board represents nearly 400 words. Objects like jello and ball, verbs like want and drink, and the abstract like good and bad, tomorrow and yesterday. To prove Konzi wasn't an anomaly, Savage-Rumbaugh with the help of other scientists expanded the banobo language program.

RUMBAUGH: Point to the sugar cane. That's right.

COOPER: First with Konzi's younger half sister, Pambenecia.

RUMBAUGH: Actually, in most of the tests we've done, Pambenecia is somewhat better than Konzi. Please come up here and help Konzi.

COOPER: The only female in the group. She's easy to pick out due to the external swelling that signals she's ready to mate. Then there's Pambenecia's 12-year-old son, (Aneota).

The latest addition is Konzi's 4-month-old son (Cheetah). I'm told I need to visit (Aneota) first. He's apparently sensitive about Konzi and Pambenecia getting all the attention.

The researchers say he understands language, but doesn't participate in testing with the cameras. I'm told he wants to play a game of chase with me.

RUMBAUGH: Are you ready to chase? Did you see that?

COOPER (on camera): Yes.

RUMBAUGH: OK, so stay back, but try to do what you see him do to show him you're sensitive to that first of all. And the better you can do it, the more he likes it.

COOPER: After an exhausting game of chase --

RUMBAUGH: He can go all day.

COOPER: OK. He's very energetic.

(voice-over): Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh says (Aneota) wants to share some milk. (on camera): Very good. Thank you.

RUMBAUGH: Can he touch your hand now, Konzi?

COOPER: When it's time to meet Konzi and Pambenecia, we're separated by glass for my own safety. Banobos are amazingly strong, five times more powerful than the average adult male.

RUMBAUGH: He said ball. Did you see him say ball, Anderson? If you didn't see it, you can ask him to say it again.


RUMBAUGH: Show him again.

COOPER: Which ball? That one? Ball?

RUMBAUGH: That means chase and that means go.

COOPER: Should I go look? You want me to go look out there?

(voice-over): Immediately, Konzi gets down to business. I'm told he wants the surprises he asked for when he saw my video greeting, a ball and pine needles, among other things.

RUMBAUGH: Are you ready? OK.

COOPER: Once Konzi is contented with his ball, Pambenecia points to pine needles on her Lexigram board and then things get, well, weird.

RUMBAUGH: Who is going to get the surprises? The bunny.

COOPER: The bunny?

RUMBAUGH: The bunny is going to get the surprises. Did you know that, Anderson? The bunny is going to get the surprises. Who is the bunny? Who's the bunny? Who should be the bunny? Bunny? Is you.

COOPER: I'm the bunny?

RUMBAUGH: You are the bunny. How am I the bunny? Wow.

(voice-over): Before I know it, I'm presented with a costume. You want me to dress up like the bunny? Is that OK? And I'm escorted off to go put it on. Do you guys do anything that chimps tell you?

RUMBAUGH: More or less.

COOPER: This is the weirdest thing I've ever -- I wasn't sure if I should do this, but I remembered the advice we were given before arriving, be laid-back and see where it goes.

(on camera): A bib. The bunny has a bib. Apparently one of the chimps likes bunnies and asked me to dress as a bunny, which was the big surprise, and get one of the presents that she had requested.

RUMBAUGH: The bunny hop. Hopping is good.


COOPER: I told you things got surreal. I'll show you later in the program what happened next.

Also ahead, the lemurs we promised you'd meet. Researchers at Duke University say these ancient primates have a knack for numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are just the sweetest little thing. What are you thinking? That's what we're here to find out.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brianna Keilar and here are the latest headlines. South Korea's president is accepting the resignation of his defense minister. He actually submitted his resignation in May after the sinking of a naval ship and the loss of 46 sailors. Tensions are high following Tuesday's North Korean artillery attack that killed four South Koreans.

President Obama is calling for bipartisan cooperation. He says Thanksgiving isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It's a time to have what he calls, quote, "a real and honest discussion because I believe that if we stop talking at one another and start talking with one another, we can get a lot done." He'll be meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday.

And it's that time. Time for Black Friday. People are already camping out in front of stores, gearing up for the best deals. But not everyone is into this frenzy. Hundreds so far have become members of the I hate Black Friday page on Facebook.

I'm Brianna Keilar. I hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving. "Amazing Animals" with Anderson Cooper continues next.


COOPER: Banobos and dolphins aren't the only mammals that are stretching our understanding of animal intelligence. It's no accident we're at the spiny forest lemur exhibit here at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo.

Lemurs are an ancient relative of monkeys, apes and humans. They don't get nearly as much attention as apes or dolphins, but they too are revealing surprising cognitive abilities. Randi Kaye went to Duke University to see firsthand the research.


KAYE (voice-over): The first thing you notice about lemurs are their eyes. They are big and wide and full of curiosity.

(on camera): There you go. You are just the sweetest little thing. What are you thinking? That's what we're here to find out. What's going on in that little brain of yours? (voice-over): That's what scientists at Duke University's Lemur Center are trying to figure out and so far, they are pretty impressed. They say lemurs are deep thinkers who understand numbers and sequencing even abstract thinking.

(on camera): Here at Duke they have the largest captive collection of lemurs in the world. Lemurs have actually received a lot less attention than apes and monkeys when it comes to researching how they think. But the folks here at the Duke Lemur Center are looking into how lemurs think because they believe that they can offer some insight into how our primate ancestors actually thought about 75 million years ago. Isn't that right?

Duke University professor Elizabeth Brannon heads up the lemur research here.

ELIZABETH BRANNON, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Hey, Pedro. Thanks for helping out today.

KAYE: She says lemurs are so sophisticated when it comes to numbers, they rival monkeys. And like human babies, lemurs understand numbers without actually understanding language.

We got to see for ourselves how smart lemurs are. My jaw dropped as I watched these primates from Madagascar take tests on a computer. This lemur has learned to recognize which square has more red dots. He uses his nose, and if he picks the right one, which he mostly does, a sugar pellet drops down. Lemurs love sweets.

BRANNON: We're asking, can the lemur learn an abstract rule about number? Can the lemur learn that he always has to choose the smaller number or the larger number? And apply this to pictures that he's had no training on.

KAYE: In this next test, the lemur has to work from memory. Before the computer test, the lemur was shown seven pictures, but he never saw all the pictures together. Scientists want to know if he can remember which pictures came first in the sequence when he's shown just two of those pictures on the computer screen in no particular order.

Can lemurs think abstractly and infer things they hadn't been taught directly?

BRANNON: One picture comes before another picture and we want to know whether he can figure out the relationship between pictures a and c.

KAYE: This lemur memorized the relationship between the pictures and still remembered it for this test even though he hadn't seen the pictures in the last two years.

BRANNON: For a long time, it was thought that lemurs weren't capable of doing a lot of things that other primates were. So in some ways this is surprising how well they're able to do in this task.

KAYE: What else surprised Professor Brannon, that lemurs, like humans, avoid risk.

BRANNON: We figured out that they really don't like to gamble.

KAYE: How does she know? Because in this test, lemurs are taught that if they choose the photograph of the train, they could get a bunch of sugar pelts as a reward or no pellets at all. But if they choose the flag photo, they always get one pelt.

Brannon says lemurs are smart enough to make an association between the photograph and the outcome. There are exceptions. But even when the risky choice will sometimes deliver more treats, most lemurs prefer the safer option -- the photo that guarantees them one treat.

BRANNON: Even if we give them six, seven, or eight pelts in the jackpot, they still prefer a single pelt, even though the average pay- off is much greater on the risky side.

KAYE: Why does any of this matter? It can help humans figure out how our thinking evolved.

BRANNON: What are the fundamental building blocks upon which complex human cultures and systems of knowledge are built? And by studying these thought processes in lemurs and monkeys and apes and other animals, we can begin to shed insight into that kind of question.

KAYE: And while Professor Brannon doesn't expect lemurs to be learning calculus anytime soon, she does believe we've only scratched the surface of their amazing intelligence.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Durham, North Carolina.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Still ahead, is your dog smarter than you think? Does he know how to take advantage of you without you even realizing it? What new research shows.

And back in the great ape trust, I finally learn the real story behind the bunny suit and why the ape was so obsess would it.


COOPER: Bonobos are a cousin of chimpanzees. There's a real split in the community over whether they really have the capacity to learn language. That's why we wanted to see for ourselves and went to the great ape trust in Des Moines, Iowa, where the research is being done with them.

We expected to be surprised, maybe even disappointed. We were prepared for that. We weren't prepared for this.


COOPER (on camera): This is like a joke.

COOPER (voice-over): Turns out it's not. This bonobo has requested I dress up as a bunny. After that, I'll hand out the surprises that she and her brother apparently requested.

COOPER (on camera): I'd love to come to spring bring you some surprises.

DR. SUE SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH, GREAT APE TRUST: Who should be the bunny? Bunny is you.

COOPER: I'm the bunny?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: We don't have a lexigram for Anderson. So she clarified it with pointing.

COOPER (voice-over): Where did the bunny suit come from? Well, Dr. Sue Savagerumba used to make video skits for as they grew up to help them learn language through lexigrams. It turns out the bunny is the monkey's favorite character from those video skits. That's why I'm now in this ridiculous costume.

COOPER (on camera): So these are the surprises that the chimps have requested. They wanted pine needles and eggs, green beans, and bread and ice. Should I bring this whole cart in? This is pretty much the strangest assignment I've ever had. Nobody laugh.

Hello. Presents. I brought you presents. Surprises, lots of surprises.

COOPER (voice-over): Among the surprises, lots of food. Something Konzi is clearly interested in.

COOPER (on camera): What are these?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Green beans. Did you see that?

COOPER: What about this one?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: What's that one? Bread.

COOPER: That's bread. And what are -- what are these?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: What are those?

COOPER: Pine needles. They seem to have remembered the video.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: They remembered the video. They are communicating very specific information. They can communicate information that's displaced in time and space. They remembered what they asked you to bring and they told you that they remembered that.

COOPER: Do they express opinions, though?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: They can express very positive and very negative opinions.

COOPER: Case in point, when I asked if I can take off the bunny suit.

COOPER (on camera): Can I take off the bunny costume? Can I take the bunny off? Is that OK?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: It's not OK. She may just decide to leave. She's pretty upset about this.

COOPER (voice-over): Konzi doesn't seem too thrilled with the idea either.

COOPER (on camera): Oh, I'm sorry.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: He's not real happy about that, but he's agreeing. You can do it. It's not really OK.

COOPER: Clearly some people say that you're projecting on to them, that you're interpreting things they say and they make a sound and you say, oh, well, this means that. Is that a fair criticism?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: It's a fair criticism until I can show what every single sound means. But it's not a fair criticism when it comes to the lexigrams. I can say the English word and they can find the photo, even a photo they've never seen. So while I haven't yet penetrated their sound system, I have penetrated their cognitive system.

Show me the umbrella. That's good. Thank you.

COOPER: To prove it, Dr. Savage developed a series of tests like this one.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Get the lighter that's in the bedroom.

COOPER (on camera): How many words do you think they understand from you?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: It seems like maybe a thousand or more. But when you have a word like it or later or is, it's difficult to test that accept in a conversation.

Are you ready?

COOPER (voice-over): They can pair English words with objects.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Show me the rubber bands. That's right.

COOPER: They connect words with photos.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Point to the bread. That's right. That's bread.

COOPER: A photo to a Lexigram.


COOPER: And even more impressive is their ability to do the same tests in the opposite order.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Being able to do the inverse is often considered a uniquely human phenomenon because if you -- when animals learn an association, they typically learn it one direction, not bidirectional.

COOPER: Even during the tests --

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Can you show me burrito? You're having trouble? Come help.

COOPER: There are glimpses of human-like qualities, personalities.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Please come up here and help Konzi and show him burrito. Anderson needs to know where burrito is. Where's burrito? Can you find it?

COOPER: It's a secret.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: It's a secret. I see.

COOPER: Some might say that was a mistake, but to the doctor, she is playing a joke, teasing both me and Konzi.

COOPER (on camera): What are you trying to accomplish here?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: We're trying to look at the relationship between language and culture and we're trying to look at what happens in a cross-generational sense. What if you have a whole group of apes that are using language with each other and they do it across generations, because that's when culture really begins to kick in and that's when language becomes functional.

COOPER: And that's where the latest addition to the family comes into the equation. As I set up on the floor with stuffed animals and an iPad, the doctor wakes up the little guy that could bring our two worlds together.


COOPER: Just ahead, you'll meet Tico, Konzi's young son. He's four months old and the great ape trust hopes he'll be a bridge to a better future for endangered bonobos.

Also ahead, what you may not know about man's best friend. How your dog sees and thinks about the world. Do you ever feel like he's the one calling the shots? You may be right.


COOPER: I'm still not sure if the apes really wanted me to wear that bunny costume or if they were just having fun with me, if I'm just an easy mark. Some animals do have the capabilities of manipulating others. For example dogs do it just about every day. Randi Kaye explains how.


KAYE: If you've ever wondered what's really going on behind those puppy dog eyes, this may be the guy to tell you. Professor Brian Hare, the director of Duke University's Canine Cognition Center is one of only a few people in the country who study how dogs think. Professor Hare and his team put pups through a series of games similar to those you might play with young children.

BRIAN HARE, DUKE UNIVERSITY: We don't want to look at cute pet tricks. What we want to know is what does the dog understand about its world?

KAYE: For years, researchers didn't even study dogs. They thought they were too domesticated. Brian says that's exactly why dogs do need to be studied. For 15 years he's been analyzing how dogs think. What surprised him most, he says, is that dogs have figured out how to read human behavior better than any other species, even chimpanzees.

HARE: The way they think about their world is that people are super important and they can solve almost any problem if they rely on people.

KAYE (on camera): How do dogs think compared to children?

HARE: Around 12 months children start making gestures to themselves. That's at about the point where it looks like dogs have that -- sort of a similar level of flexibility.

KAYE (voice-over): Watch this. I just met Tazzi a few minutes before this test when we both point to a cup which may hold a treat. Will she trust me, a stranger, or her owner?

KAYE (on camera): I'm crushed.

HARE: That's my boy. That's my boy.

KAYE (voice-over): Over and over, Tazzi chooses her owner's gestures.

HARE: He's grown up with me. We do lots of stuff together. He's never met you before. If they're both telling me where to go, I'm going to trust the guy that I'm with all the time.

KAYE: Dogs are complex social animals who understand they have different relationships with different people.

HARE: They really narrow in and pay attention, and they want to know what is it about the world that you can help with.

KAYE: Because let's face it, dogs can't solve every problem.

HARE: Here's the food.

KAYE: When a treat is hidden inside a tube, this Gordon setter can't see it but figures out right away she can reach the treat by going to the side. But watch what happens when the tube is switched and the dog can see the treat. She forgets how easy it was to get just moments before. You might call it a doggy meltdown.

HARE: OK. Here you go. You got it.

KAYE: We try the same test on Napoleon, a Yorkshire terrier. KAYE (on camera): OK, let's see how you do. All right, here's your treat. Put it in the clear cylinder. OK.

HARE: Wow.

KAYE: Oh, are you impressive, my little friend.

HARE: A lot of times, the best solution requires a bit of a detour. And so what this says is that Napoleon's able to take a detour, a mental detour and realize, wait a second, even though it looks like that's the shortcuts easy answer, it's the wrong thing to do.

KAYE (voice-over): Researchers here are studying dogs to better understand their limitations by identifying why they make mistakes. They believe they can make them better at working with people with disabilities or working with the military.

Professor Hare says domestication has made dogs smarter. So smart, in fact, they're even able to understand the principle of connectivity.

HARE: They know that they're connected on a leash and will have to listen because if they don't know what you say they can stop me, whereas if I'm not on a leash, I know the command, but I don't have to listen to you now.

KAYE (on camera): How do you know that? Just from studying them?

HARE: Yes. If you --

KAYE: Not through these tests.

HARE: It's from owning a dog.


KAYE (voice-over): Just like children, he says, dogs also understand they can misbehave when you turn your back even after you've told them not to do something.

HARE: And you're upset because your dog disobeyed you and you think the dog's not obedient. No, it was obedient, but it realized you it could get away with it.

KAYE: Like it or not, researchers have figured out dogs use their skills to manipulate the world and those of us in it. So next time you catch yourself thinking you are the master, look your dog straight in the eye. Chances are, he is thinking the same thing.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Durham, North Carolina.


COOPER: Bonobos are really remarkable creatures. They are also disappearing fast. Great apes are the closest species to us, and scientists at the great ape trust believe they have much to teach about how human intelligence evolved. Will those lessons be discovered before time runs out?

There's one more Bonobo we want you to meet tonight. His name is Tiko.


COOPER: Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a scientist with the great ape trust in Des Moines, Iowa, says she realize it may be hard for people to believe the apes understand language.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: If I hadn't experienced it -- I'm a critical scientist, too, it would be difficult for me to accept.

COOPER: But since she made what she considers a remarkable discovery nearly 30 years ago, it's been her mission to prove bonobos have more in common with humans than we ever thought possible. One way she hopes to do that is with the help of this little guy. His name is Tiko, and he's Konzi's four-month-old son.

COOPER (on camera): His feet are incredible. They're like extra hands.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Yes. That's the way ape feet are.

COOPER (voice-over): His mother, a non-language bonobo abandoned him shortly after he was born. Tiko struggled with health issues but then found his new mom, Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Very surprising. I never planned to be the mom of any bonobo.

COOPER: Like a typical mom of a newborn, Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week with Tiko.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Are you getting happy now?

COOPER: The unique situation has opened a door to truly test her theories on how human culture and child rearing impact language. He has his own iPad?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: This is his favorite. This is the one he first learned to activate.

COOPER: Tiko's exposed only to bonobos who use the lexigram charts and is exposed to everything human.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: I would like Tiko to grow up among many people, to have five or six people who do things with him through the day, that take him out into Des Moines.

COOPER (on camera): You think by being exposed to people from the earliest age and the culture of humans that he actually may surpass the others in terms of his ability to communicate?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Yes. The others have been exposed to language, but not cub scouts, not going out to a restaurant. COOPER (voice-over): She doesn't want to divorce him from the bonobo world altogether, but boy letting him live in ours, she believes tiko could expand the bonobos' world.

COOPER (on camera): What advantage is there raising him in the human world and also the ape world?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Well, Konzi can't really show competency because they can't sit down and have a talk with you and go for a car ride. Their intelligence is trapped in a place that it's not yet able to manifest itself. If Tiko can become able to interact with human beings in a human, cultural manner, then he can -- he can help them bridge that gap. He's a kind of an ambassador, you might say, an ambassador for the bonobo species.

COOPER: Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh's lifelong work might change the way we think about great apes and in turn ourselves. It's critical work and the time to do it may be running out. Bonobos are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo where ongoing violence threatens their existence. Conservation International says there are only about 5,000 left in the wild.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: If we destroy them thinking they're these animals that can only do simple associative things and don't really have any extraordinary cognition, we will have lost our last link with other humanlike forms on the planet.

We can solve a lot of things, a lot of puzzles about ourselves by looking at bonobos as they exist now. And if we wipe them out, those answers are lost to us forever.


COOPER: There's obviously so much more for scientists to discover about how animals think, what they're capable of. Who knows what other remarkable discoveries they'll find?

Thanks for watching AMAZING ANIMALS. I'll see you later.