As part of his documentary series "Amazing Animals: Smarter Than You Think," CNN anchor Anderson Cooper donned a bunny suit to communicate with adult bonobo chimps.
These particular bonobos had been working with a researcher, who has taught them to communicate with her using lexigrams. They point at images to indicate what they wish to say. When the bonobos learned Anderson would visit, they requested he bring them some gifts, such as a ball and pine needles. The catch: they wanted him to wear a bunny suit while presenting them!
Turns out that Panbanisha, the female ape, has a fondness for humans in bunny suits. This developed from videos that the researcher had made while Panbanisha was young, in order to teach her language. The bunny was her favorite character in those video skits.
So Anderson gamely wore the bunny suit and even hopped a little bit as he brought out a rolling tray containing several ape delicacies: pine needles, bread, string beans, and ice cubes. Panbanisha, who had been very excited when Anderson had agreed to put on the suit, was much more subdued as he brought it out. I imagine that, if they had asked her, she might have had more requests:
RESEARCHER: What do you want, Panbanisha?
(PANBANISHA POINTS AT THE LEXIGRAM FOR "HOP")
RESEARCHER: Who do you want to hop?
(PANBANISHA POINTS AT ANDERSON)
ANDERSON: (LAUGHS) That's right. Bunnies hop. (HE HOPS BRIEFLY)
RESEARCHER: Anderson is hopping, Panbanisha!
(PANBANISHA MAKES EXCITED NOISES)
RESEARCHER: She likes that! Wait, she's pointing to something else.
(PANBANISHA POINTS TO THE LEXIGRAM FOR "HOP" AGAIN)
RESEARCHER: She wants you to hop again.
ANDERSON: Does she? Well, OK. Why not? (HE HOPS A CIRCLE AROUND THE CART HE'S PUSHING)
(PANBANISHA CLAPS HER HANDS WITH EXCITEMENT)
ANDERSON: Do you like my hopping?
(PANBANISHA POINTS TO "YES")
RESEARCHER: She says yes, she likes it.
(PANBANISHA POINTS TO ANOTHER LEXIGRAM)
ANDERSON: What's she saying now?
RESEARCHER: (LAUGHS) She wants you to dance.
ANDERSON: (TURNING SLIGHTLY MORE PALE) Dance? Oh, no. I'm no good at dancing.
(PANBANISHA TAPS THE "DANCE" LEXIGRAM AGAIN, EMPHATICALLY)
RESEARCHER: She says, "Dance."
ANDERSON: Do I have to? I mean, I wouldn't even dance when I appeared on Ellen. I leave the dancing up to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer.
(PANBANISHA TAPS THE "DANCE" LEXIGRAM AGAIN, AND THEN THE "PLEASE" LEXIGRAM)
RESEARCHER: She's asking politely: "Dance, please."
ANDERSON: (SIGHS) Well, I guess it doesn't matter. I mean, I'm already wearing a bunny suit. Do you have any music?
(RESEARCHER HITS A BUTTON IN THE CONTROL PANEL, AND "THE WHEELS ON THE BUS" PLAYS)
(ANDERSON DOES A SELF-CONSCIOUS DANCE, SHIFTING FROM SIDE TO SIDE AND SWINGING HIS ARMS STIFFLY)
ANDERSON: How's that, Panbanisha?
(PANBANISHA TAPS ANOTHER LEXIGRAM)
RESEARCHER: She wants you to sing, Anderson.
ANDERSON: (CONTINUING HIS STIFF DANCE) (SINGING) The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. The wheels on the bus go round and round all day long.
(PANBANISHA JUMPS AROUND, AS IF DANCING ALONG)
ANDERSON: (SPEAKING) Does she ever make you do this?
RESEARCHER: Never. I guess she really likes you, Anderson.
(PANBANISHA MAKES A PLEASED SOUND)
ANDERSON: I could swear she's laughing.
RESEARCHER: It could be. Is Anderson funny, Panbanisha?
(PANBANISHA POINTS TO THE "YES" LEXIGRAM AND MAKES AN EXCITED SOUND)
ANDERSON: (REALIZING THAT HE JUST WORE A BUNNY SUIT AND DANCED TO A ENTERTAIN AN APE) That's great. I've been punked by a bonobo.
The best part of the real story is that there are now genuine pictures of Anderson in a bunny suit that will, no doubt, be rolled out at every key milestone in his career. Got to love those bonobos.
Never trust a monkey.