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Central Washington University

CWU Chimpanzee Dar Died of Sudden Cardiac Failure

November 26, 2012

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- The chimpanzee Dar, one of a family of chimpanzees at Central Washington University who learned to use American Sign Language, died November 24 at the age of 36. The director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI), Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold, said that a post-mortem examination, performed at the University of Washington Primate Center, indicated that Dar died of sudden cardiac failure, the most common cause of death in captive male chimpanzees. The average life span of this population is 30 years. He was in otherwise good health.

"Dar signed throughout his life, teaching us about friendships between humans and nonhumans and the minds of chimpanzees," said Jensvold. "He will be dearly missed."

A memorial for Dar will be held at 1:00 p.m., December 9, in the lobby of Dean Hall on CWU’s Ellensburg campus.

Dar was born on August 2, 1976, at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamagordo, New Mexico. Drs. Allen and Beatrix Gardner raised Dar from early infancy in a home and treated him like a deaf human child at the University of Nevada-Reno.  Dr. Roger Fouts and his wife Deborah came to CWU in 1980 and created CHCI, a sanctuary for Washoe and her family.  In 1981 Dar and another chimpanzee, Tatu, moved to Ellensburg, Washington to reside with chimpanzee matriarch Washoe, and her adopted son, Loulis, and another signing chimpanzee, Moja, who died in 2002.

Washoe, who died in 2007, was the only chimpanzee at CHCI born in Africa and was the first chimpanzee to acquire a human language.

For more information please contact Linda Schactler, executive director of Public Affairs, 509-607-4103.