Alex is still the most famous African Grey Parrot, although over 5 years passed since his death. Dr. Irene M. Pepperberg, Adjunct Associate professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and Research Associate and Lecturer at Harvard University, was Alex’s trainer for 30 years until he died.
Photo source: tertuliacossanostra.forumsalgerie
Dr. Irene bought the parrot from a pet store in Chicago when he was about a year old. She didn’t choose him for having a particular pedigree or something other particularities. Her only intention was to research on the bird‘s intelligence.
Alex intelligence and personality
It is known that parrots are famous mimics, but Alex proved he was able to perform very complex intelligent tasks. Only a few nonhuman species like chimpanzees have been able to perform what Alex could.
The parrot developed a vocabulary of more than 100 voice labels which he used to indicate different objects, actions, colors, size and quantity. He was able to identify 50 different objects and certain objects by their material too.
His mathematical prowess made him famous. The parrot could count object sets totalling 6, or less.
Before his death he was learning to count seven and eight object sets. He was adding Arabic numerals (in the form of colored refrigerator magnets) from 1 through 8 in the correct order. The most amazing accomplishment was to develop his own concept that described the idea of zero.
Dr. Irene believes that when the parrot was vocalizing, he wasn’t doing just mimicry. Alex was actually expressing the results of his thoughts. For example when asked what is the corn’s color he answered yellow, although there was no corn around.
Alex had a strong personality too. The parrot learned to say “wanna go back,” and he was using it whenever he was tired, or wanted to go to his cage.
Dr. Irene and Alex developed a very strong relationship during all these years. Sometimes they were teasing each other. Also, every morning, Dr Pepperberg was greeting Alex first. If she forgot, the parrot would refuse to work with her for the rest of the day.
A book and a film were made in Alex’s memory
Alex passed away of a sudden heart arrhythmia in 2007. The last words he said to Dr Pepperberg were his usual words before going to sleep: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you”.
Alex’s death was a sorrow for millions of fans around the world, and a shock because he was just 31 years compared with 60 – the average life span of African Grey Parrots.
In 2008, Dr. Pepperberg published a touching memoir entitled “Alex & Me” that was a New York Times bestseller.
Last year it was also released a compelling tribute about the famous African Grey Parrot, entitled Life with Alex. The 55 minutes film contains many unreleased before footage of Alex’s daily life and accomplishments.
Alex was definitely a special parrot who offered the world a great lesson about animal intelligence.
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