Chantek. Photo retrieved from:

Orangutan intelligence has been of great interest to researchers and primatologists worldwide. One of the most impressive examples of orangutan intelligence would be the teaching and understanding of American Sign Language (ASL).

One of, if not the most famous, apes to learn ASL was Chantek the orangutan. Chantek was born on December 17th, 1977 at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a Sumatran/Bornean hybrid.

Chantek learned ASL from American anthropologists Lyn Miles and Ann Southcombe. At the age of 19, Chantek moved to Zoo Atlanta.

During his lifetime, Chantek learned around 150 ASL words, along with understanding some English words. While living at Zoo Atlanta, Chantek was known to voluntarily use ASL to communicate and “speak” with his caregivers.

Sadly, Chantek passed away on August 7th, 2017 at the age of 39. While he is no longer with us, he still is still very well known for his life story and impressive intellectual skills.

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