Alex (1976 – September 6, 2007) was an African Grey Parrot and the subject of a thirty-year (1977–2007) experiment by animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg, initially at the University of Arizona and later at Harvard University and Brandeis University. Pepperberg bought Alex in a regular pet shop when he was about one year old. The name Alex is an acronym for Avian Language EXperiment, but Pepperberg later cited the name as meaningAvian Learning EXperiment to evoke further acceptance in her research field, a then touchy topic (explained in her book, Alex & Me). His successor was Griffin.
Before Pepperberg's work with Alex, it was widely believed in the scientific community that a large primate brain was needed to handle complex problems related to language and understanding and that birds were not considered to be intelligent as their only common use of communication was of mimicking and the repetition of sounds to interact with each other. However, Alex's accomplishments indicated that birds may be able to reason on a basic level and use words creatively. Pepperberg wrote that Alex's intelligence was on a par with that of dolphins and great apes. She also reported that Alex had the intelligence of a five-year-old human and had not even reached his full potential by the time he died. She said that the bird had the emotional level of a human two-year-old at the time of his death.
Alex died on September 6, 2007, at the age of 31. Alex's death came as a complete surprise; the average life span for African grey parrots is sixty years. He had appeared healthy the day before but was found dead in the morning. Alex's last words to Pepperberg were: "You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you.
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