While some may not see the significance in an orangutan who can mimic the same grunt as his trainer, Rocky the great ape just might change the way that we view language for good.
His simple action proves that apes have the cognitive ability to understand language. Humans were once considered to be the only species that could understand and process language, but apes are now proving themselves able to learn new vocalization and mimic the sounds with their vocal cords.
Researchers have always known that apes could learn different sounds from their human counterparts. However, the idea that an ape could process the noises they hear and recreate them at the same pitch and intonation was not known until recently.
Spoken language is usually considered to be a trait that is sacred to the homo sapiens of the world and even some of the world’s most intelligent academics believe that apes have very little control over their own ability to vocalize.
Seeing Rocky develop the ability to control the tone and pitch of his voice has cast doubt on these previous findings. Rocky was also able to respond to his trainer in a manner that was very conversational, which adds to the belief that apes can learn sounds in order to gain the attention of humans.
There also those who believe that humans have now created an environment where apes are more comfortable showcasing their abilities to us and that we are far from responsible for creating these seemingly new capabilities. It is difficult for researchers to know when or how Rocky learned how to reproduce sounds in this manner, but only further time and study will be able to truly tell the tale.