CWU News

Chimp research is over, but hundreds are still in labs. A tiny Washington sanctuary is helping them

Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest owes its existence 80 miles southeast of Seattle and 1,500 miles from the closest chimp-research lab to two visionaries: a laid-off biotech worker who nearly bankrupted himself to realize a dream, and a scientist whose pioneering sign-language experiments with chimps brought a generation of budding primatologists to Central Washington University in nearby Ellensburg.

Goodrich and Mulcahy were among those idealistic students, apprenticing with Roger Fouts and his wife, Deborah, in the 1990s and working with the famous signing chimp Washoe and her clan. The animals' mastery of a human language revolutionized understanding of their intelligence and rich social lives. A chimp named Booee immediately recognized Fouts and began signing his name when the two reunited in a lab in 1995 after 13 years.

The Foutses are retired and the chimps long gone – the two survivors live at Fauna Foundation sanctuary in Quebec – but CWU's primate behavior and ecology program still attracts students from around the world. When Keith LaChappelle lost his job in 2003 and decided to build a sanctuary, he turned to the experts at CWU for advice.

Read this article in its entirety online at The Seattle Times.