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Central Washington University

CWU Chimpanzee Dar Dies at 36

Dar 1976-2012, Courtest of Friends of Washoe

November 24, 2012

ELLENSBURG, Wash.—The chimpanzee Dar, one of a family of chimpanzees at Central Washington University who learned to use American Sign Language, has died at the age of 36. The director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI), Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold, said that Dar died this morning of unknown causes and that an autopsy will be performed in the next few days.

"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."

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.