Washoe, the first non-human to learn sign language, died on Oct. 30th, 2007

Saw this from friendsofwashoe.org that Washoe, the first non-human to learn sign language, has died.

Washoe was the first non-human animal to acquire a human language and her adopted son Loulis is the first to acquire a human language from another chimpanzee.

Her name sign is formed with the fingers of a “W” hand flicking the ear on the same side. She was named for Washoe county Nevada where she lived with Drs. Allen and Beatrix Gardner until age five.

Washoe was adopted on June 21, 1966. She was cross-fostered; that is, she was raised in the Gardners’ home as if she were a deaf human child.

She was 42 years old, a long life for a female chimpanzee. Most females in captivity live an average of 33.5 years.

I’ve always known that chimpanzees were capable of learning sign language but never thought about who was the first non-human to learn sign language. This sounds like something that should go into Guinness’ World Records.

One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. Kim

    I just read a really great fictional book about a chimp who used sign language. She and her keep help convince a hearing parent to allow her Deaf child to learn ASL. It’s called “Hurt Go Happy” I’m going to blog about it later, but haven’t had time lately with the holidays. It has a really strong message against experimenting on chimpanzees because of their intellect. When you read this book and see how this chimp communicated and it is based on research of how other chimps communicate with sign, it’s heart-breaking that they end up in testing facilities.

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