Sign-language orangutan dies at 39
AT L A N TA : Chantek, a male orangutan who was among the first apes to learn sign language, could clean his room and memorised the way to a fast-food restaurant, died on Monday at age 39, Zoo Atlanta said.
Chantek, who was taught by a trainer who raised him like her own child, was being treated for heart disease, the zoo said in a statement. A necropsy will determine the cause of death.
“Chantek will be missed by his family here at Zoo Atlanta. He had such a unique and engaging personality and special ways of relating to and communicating with those who knew him best,” said Hayley Murphy, vice-president of the zoo’s animal divisions.
Chantek, one of the oldest male orangutans in North American zoos, was born at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta. He was sent to live with anthropologist Lyn Miles in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for nine years.
Chantek learned to clean his room, make and use tools, and could direct a driving route from the university to a Dairy Queen restaurant, according to a 2014 PBS documentary, The Ape Who Went to College.
Chantek was among a handful of primates who could communicate using American Sign Language, along with Koko, a gorilla, and Washoe, a chimpanzee.
Cardiac disease is a leading cause of death among great apes in zoos. Reuters
Chantek, who could communicate using sign language, died at Zoo Atlanta in the US on Monday.