Two famed sign-language chimps headed to Fauna!

I've been speaking about The Chimps to book clubs, library groups, literary types and animal lovers for more than two years now, and every time I do someone asks: "Can Gloria accept any more chimpanzees into her sanctuary?" My answer has always been the same: "No. Quebec Agriculture laws forbid it." Until now.

Tatu

Tatu

Plans are now underway to move two of the most famous chimps in America to the Fauna Foundation. Tatu (37) and Loulis (35) are the last surviving members of a very special group of chimps who in the 1970s became the first non-human primates to learn American Sign Language.

This group included Moja, Dar and the charismatic Washoe, arguably the most famous chimp in scientific history. Since the early 1980s, the five had lived at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) at Central Washington University. Sadly, over the last ten years Moja, Dar and Washoe have passed away from natural causes, leaving Tatu and Loulis rather lonely.

As we all know by now, chimps need companionship to survive. And what better place for Tatu and Loulis to make new friends than at Fauna? The chimps will be leaving CHCI for good to live out the rest of their retirement with Binky, Regis, Jethro, Chance and everyone else on the farm in Quebec.

Loulis

Loulis

Gloria and her team are currently navigating a labyrinth of paperwork and permitting issues (there is, of course, that pesky Quebec Agriculture law to contend with). No specific timeline for the chimps' arrival has been made public. But preparations, if only psychological at this point, are well underway. I will make sure to update this blog with news of the new arrivals as it becomes available.

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CHCI was founded by pioneering primatologists Roger and Deborah Fouts, who conducted the first studies into sign language and chimpanzees. To read more about the Fouts' scientific odyssey with the chimps, look no further than Roger's remarkable book, Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees.

As you might imagine, accepting new chimpanzees is a challenging and expensive undertaking. If you've been thinking of donating to Fauna but haven't yet, now would be the perfect time. Here's how.