Ground-breaking Chimps That Learned Sign Language to Live Out Lives in Canadian Sanctuary

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The last two surviving chimpanzees from a ground-breaking group of five that became the first of their kind to learn human sign language are to be sent to a Canadian sanctuary to live out their lives after decades of scientific stardom at a U.S. research centre.

The chimps named Tatu and Loulis, 37- and 35-years-old respectively, were born in captivity in the U.S. and helped form the first group of non-human primates to communicate using the hand gestures of American Sign Language.

The animals have lived since the early 1980s at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University southeast of Seattle.

The estimated $2 million that would have been required for upgrades to bring other chimps to Tatu and Loulis’s habitat in Washington also contributed to the decision to “expedite a humane and safe transition” to a Canadian retirement for the “elderly” twosome, according to the Friends of Washoe organization that supervises their care.

“The Friends of Washoe have concluded that moving the chimpanzees to a sanctuary as soon as possible is the best strategy to ensure (Tatu and Loulis) a stable future,” CWU president James Gaudino said in a statement expressing the university’s support for the move.

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