Last Chance to Talk to the Chimps

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.

loulis-playing-with-visitorCentral 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

No other experience is quite like this. Don’t miss it.

Make your reservation for your experience at the Chimposium here:

Washoe_scans_mag masthead

For more information, check out:

The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute

and visit 400 E. University WayEllensburg, WA 98926
(509) 963-2244

Also check out  this great article available free from the Research & Learn section of our website

Hominidae I (Great Apes)

from Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia

2 thoughts on “Last Chance to Talk to the Chimps”

  1. Being a docent at CHCI for a year was one of the most enriching experiences of my life thus far! I loved getting to see Dar (RIP), Tatu, and Loulis on a weekly basis and I highly recommend visiting; there is truly nothing like this :)

  2. Serendipity! I was looking for library sponsored summer children’s events, read the blog about the chimps, and am now taking my grand daughter who just finished a year of ASL to see them next Saturday for their last Advanced Symposium. Thank you for reminding the public about this treasure in our “backyard”.

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