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DSM Bonobo Research Center Making Global Impacts

Ape Initiative in DSM

October 19, 2021

The Ape Initiative in Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the only research center in the world dedicated to the study and conservation of the species most closely related to humans — the endangered bonobo. We are a federally recognized non-profit organization — 501(c)(3) — and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as a Certified Related Facility. Bonobos are an endangered species of African great ape with as few as 15,000 – 20,000 individuals in the wild. Understanding bonobo behavior, and how they interact with one another, is critical to their conservation. That’s why we developed a scientifically grounded education program for students of all ages. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of scientists and educators by promoting scientific literacy and environmental stewardship. Science of Apes

What We Do

We are so fortunate to work with leading scientists from across the globe to better understand bonobos as well as our own place in the natural world. Together, Kanzi and his bonobo family are helping our research scientists uncover the origins of human language, cognition and behavior, and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. Every day, the bonobos can choose to participate in behavioral and cognitive research projects, like touchscreen computer tasks, tool-use tasks and food preference tests. Not only do these studies result in valuable scientific data, but they keep the bonobos’ minds and bodies engaged and enriched! We work with scientists, educators and students from leading research institutions including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, the University of St. Andrews, the Max Planck Institute and many more! You can learn more about our collaborators at apeinitiative.org/our-collaborators.Ape Educational Outreach

Each year, we reach thousands of students through educational experiences, STEM events and virtual classroom visits. We work closely with educators to provide our facility and unique population of bonobos as a resource for STEM initiatives. Through our collaboration with the Vanderbilt University Collaborative for STEM Education and Outreach, we are able to offer FREE educational materials that are aligned to NGSS standards. Additionally, there are links for parents and curious students of all ages that cover topics directly related to apes and conservation. Check out our Education Zone for more information at apeinitiative.org/education-zone. We also offer virtual and hands-on research experiences to students of all ages. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of scientists and educators — one connection at a time!Animal Welfare

At Ape Initiative, we believe science and animal welfare go hand-in-hand! We monitor the bonobos’ health and behavior and use data to create individualized wellness plans for Kanzi, Elikya, Nyota, Maisha, Mali, Clara and Teco. Specifically, we work with specialists from around the world to improve captive animal welfare through programs such as the Great Ape Heart Project. The bonobos at Ape Initiative are active participants in their own care! Each day, the bonobos can choose to participate in husbandry training sessions like mock nebulization treatment, finger blood pressure monitoring and voluntary electrocardiograms using a KardiaMobile device (pictured above). Giving the bonobos autonomy during these training sessions reduces stress often associated with medical procedures and is one more way our bonobos have choice in their daily lives!

DSM is home to the ONLY research and education organization dedicated to the species most closely related to humans. To learn more about Ape Initiative, visit us at apeinitiative.org.

Throughout Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 10-county region, a thriving economic environment is attracting more Investors to do business. Learn more about other recent development projects in the region.

Sara Skiba, PhD

Dr. Sara Skiba is a research associate at the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative (Ape Initiative) in Des Moines, Iowa.