Last weekend I made my fourth and last trip to Ellensburg to talk with Tatu and Loulis in Ellensburg. What’s so interesting about that? Tatu and Loulis are the last remaining signing chimpanzees at CWU. What began with Washoe, the first non-human to acquire a human language, grew to a unique group of five chimpanzees. Today, no scientist would raise these chimps as human children the way Washoe was raised, or acquire chimps from Africa the way that was the norm 40 years ago. When these chimps are gone, this very unique human/chimp interactive experience is gone. And they will be leaving their long time home at CWU soon.
The original group has aged and dwindled to only 2 chimps, so they will be moved to Quebec soon, to a larger chimp group which better meets their social needs. We only have until about mid-August to make that drive to Ellensburg and experience the thrill of talking with Tatu and Loulis firsthand.
Central Washington University‘s Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (or Chimposium) is a sanctuary for this unique family of chimpanzees who have acquired the signs of American Sign Language (ASL) and use those signs in conversations with each other and their human companions.
For me, my Chimposium visits have been peak life experiences, truly thrilling to sign friendship to these wise animals. These one-hour, educational workshops first train you to interact respectfully and effectively with the Chimps, then give their history and the state of Chimps in the wild, and finally underscore our very close relationship to them. Did you know that there is more difference between the DNA of an Asian Elephant and an African Elephant than there is between a human and a chimpanzee?
In the words of the scientists and students who know them best: “The chimpanzees’ accomplishments are a scientific first and have resulted in a better understanding of ourselves, as well as our place and role in nature. This was achieved by accepting the chimpanzees on their terms, as much as possible, and thus giving special consideration to the chimpanzees’ needs.” –from www.friendsofwashoe.org
No other experience is quite like this. Don’t miss it.
Make your reservation for your experience at the Chimposium here: http://tinyurl.com/obboem6
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Also check out this great article available free from the Research & Learn section of our website