BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Monday was a sad day for the staff at Zoo Atlanta. They announced the death of Chantek the orangutan, who was among the first apes capable of communicating by using the American Sign Language. The animal was 39 years old.
The orangutan was incredibly smart
Chantek was one of the oldest apes who lived in North America. For nine years, he lived at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, together with anthropologist Lyn Miles. The rest of his years he spent at Zoo Atlanta. The orangutan was incredibly smart, and could perform various tasks. For instance, he was able to clean his room, make his own tools and then use them, or even learn how to get to a fast food restaurant.
The staff at Zoo Atlanta will definitely miss Chantek. He was incredibly friendly, had a warm personality and a unique way to relate and communicate with those he was close to. Therefore, they were sad to find out the ape was suffering from heart disease.
Chantek had heart disease
In 2016, they discovered Chantek was sick. Cardiovascular diseases are common among great apes in zoos, and many of them die of such cases. The orangutan was the first to voluntarily undergo an echocardiogram, so he was while fully awake. After doctors observed his condition, he was immediately put on a diet low in sodium.
This is a great loss, as the orangutan managed to learn a lot of things and made incredible achievements. He was also featured in a PBS documentary from 2014, called “The Ape Who Went to College”. Apart from cleaning his room and perform a route from his place at the university to a restaurant, he used sign language to communicate.
However, Chantek was quite shy in the presence of unknown people, and he used this language only among people he was familiar with. In front of zoo visitors or other people, he used other forms of communication which were more typical of regular orangutans.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons