Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sadly, Alex, Bird Brain Found Dead

Alex (1976 - September 7, 2007) was an African grey parrot who, from 1977 to 2007, was the subject of a running experiment under animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, initially at the University of Arizona and most recently at Harvard and Brandeis University.

The cause of Alex's death was unknown. The African Grey parrot's average life span is 50 years, Brandeis University scientist Irene Pepperberg said. She said Alex was discovered dead in his cage Friday but she waited to release the news until this week so grieving researchers could get over the shock and talk about it.

"It's devastating to lose an individual you've worked with pretty much every day for 30 years," Pepperberg told The Boston Globe. "Someone was working with him eight to 12 hours every day of his life."

Alex's death came as a complete surprise. He had appeared healthy the day before, and was found dead in the morning. The cause of death is unknown. According to a press release issued by the Alex Foundation, "Alex was found to be in good health at his most recent annual physical about two weeks [before his death]. According to the vet who conducted the necropsy, there was no obvious cause of death."

Alex had a vocabulary of around 100 words as of 2000, but was exceptional in that he appeared to have understanding of what he said. For example, when Alex was shown an object and was asked about its shape, color, or material, he could label it correctly. If asked the difference between two objects, he also answered that, but if there was no difference between the objects, he said "none." When he was tired of being tested, he would say "I’m gonna go away, " and if the researcher displays annoyance, Alex tried to defuse it with the phrase, "I’m sorry." If he said "Wanna banana", but was offered a nut instead, he stared in silence, asked for the banana again, or took the nut and threw it at the researcher!!

When asked how many objects of a particular color or a particular material are on a tray, he gave the correct answer approximately 80% of the time.

Maybe Alex should have been taught some medical terms, like " I don't feel good", or " sick ". Nevertheless, this story makes me sad, on an otherwise sad day.

Noting Alex's death is much more important than any Osama tape release. And it is important for me to recognize one of God's noble creations instead, over that creep and his followers, too.
Believe me.

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