A chimpanzee at Central Washington University who learned to use American Sign Language has died at the age of 36.
The director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold, said Dar died Saturday morning of unknown causes and that an autopsy will be performed in the next few days.
"Dar signed throughout his life, teaching us about friendships between humans and nonhumans and the minds of chimpanzees," said Jensvold. "He will be dearly missed."
In a blog, Rozsika Steele, who worked with Dar and other chimpanzees, said "Last night I cried my weight in tears over the loss of my friend Dar, but today more than feeling sad I just feel grateful." Read her blog
CHCI says Dar was born on August 2, 1976, at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamagordo, New Mexico. From early infancy Dar was raised in a home and treated like a deaf, human child.
Dr. Roger Fouts and his wife Deborah came to CWU in 1980 and created CHCI, a sanctuary for Washoe - the first chimpanzee to acquire a human sign language - and her family. In 1981 Dar and another chimpanzee, Tatu, moved to Ellensburg to live with chimpanzee matriarch Washoe, and her adopted son, Loulis, and another signing chimpanzee, Moja, who died in 2002.
Washoe, who died in 2007, was the only chimpanzee at CHCI born in Africa.