Orangutan who used sign language dies

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Washington, Aug 8 (IANS) An orangutan who was one of the first apes to learn sign language has died in the US state of Georgia, aged 39, the media reported on Tuesday.

Chantek died in Zoo Atlanta which had been his home since 1997, reports the BBC.

Zoo Atlanta officials said Chantek had “an engaging personality” and would be deeply missed.

In a statement, the zoo said that at 39, Chantek was one of the oldest male orangutans in North American zoos.

His cause of death was not yet known, it said, but vets had been treating him for progressive heart disease.

Orangutans are considered geriatric after the age of about 35, the zoo added.

Chantek was born at the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre in Georgia and was sent to live with anthropologist Lyn Miles at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

He was transferred to Zoo Atlanta in 1997.

A 2014 documentary called “The Ape Who Went to College” showed that Chantek had learned various skills there, including cleaning his room and directing a driving route from the university to a restaurant.

–IANS

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