Something of an identity crisis is facing Central Washington University’s Chimpanzee and Human Communications Institute, which is down to just two chimps, Loulis and Tatu.
The two remaining chimpanzees in the program, which is famous for teaching sign language to primates, could end up leaving Ellensburg. Or, some new friends could be moving in.
Chimpanzee advocates want to see Loulis, a 34-year-old male, and Tatu, a 36-year-old female, live out the rest of their lives in their 7,000-square-foot home on campus. But there’s the question of funding and how money is allocated in times of shrinking college budgets. And just what is the program’s mission?
It’s more than a dilemma, said CWU Public Affairs Director Linda Schactler. “It’s a very complicated issue,” she said.
Founded in 1980 by Roger and Deborah Fouts, pioneer researchers in chimpanzee communication who are now retired, the institute seeks to increase the understanding of both human and chimpanzee communication. No doubt the most famous resident was Washoe, who was the first nonhuman in history to acquire a human language. She learned American Sign Language and in turn taught it to Loulis before she died in 2007.