Signing with Chimpanzees

         Chimpanzees are humans' genetically closest relatives; we share 98.76 of the same DNA. Although, they cannot talk to us vocally, chimpanzees are smart enough to communicate with humans in sign language. Sign language is a series of hand gestures that can mean words, phases, and/or sentences. Sign language can be used by people who are deaf, or cannot hear well. The five chimpanzees at CHCI (Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute) in Ellensberg, Washington, all know how to communicate in sign language. One of the Chimps, Washoe, was the world's first signing chimp. She began to learn signing in the year 1966, when she was one year old.
         Chimpanzees are very intelligent creatures; they are able to learn many words in sign language. A chimpanzee named Nim, one of the first chimps to sign, has learned at least 125 words in sign language, such as: Baby, Up, Down, Me, You, Bite, Drink, Sorry, Eat, and Tree. Sometimes, chimps don't only use sign language to talk and communicate with people, young chimpanzee children can assume the behavior of a four-year-old human child, to play and "talk" to dolls.
         In conclusion, chimps may not communicate vocally, but we humans and chimps have the ability to talk to each other in the hand gestures of sign language.

-Written by Thomas J. O'Rourke

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