Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute

The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) is located on the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. CHCI included a sanctuary for chimpanzees who have learned to communicate with humans and each other using American Sign Language. CHCI's director is Mary Lee Jensvold. It was founded by former co-directors Roger Fouts and Deborah Fouts.

Formerly resident chimpanzees

  • Washoe, 1966-30 October 2007. Washoe was the first non-human primate to learn some rudimentary forms of ASL, a true human language.
  • Loulis, 1978 - (moved out in 2013). Loulis is Washoe's adopted son and was the subject of a project that examined whether he would learn sign language from other chimpanzees. The complete research was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, but can be found in a book published in 1989 entitled "Teaching Sign Language to Chimpanzees" edited by Allen and Beatrix Gardner.
  • Tatu, 1975 - (moved out in 2013)
  • Dar, 1976 - 2012[1]
  • Moja, 1972 - 2002

Loulis and Tatu, the remaining two chimpanzees in the CHCI after the natural death of Washoe and Dar, moved to their new home at the Fauna Foundation in Quebec in late August 2013,[2] where they will be integrated into an existing group of eleven chimpanzees.


In September 1980, Washoe, Loulis, and Moja moved to Central Washington University. Tatu and Dar followed the next year. The chimpanzees were originally housed on the third floor of the university's psychology complex. Roger Fouts and Deborah Fouts with their students advocated the campus and the state legislature for a specialized facility for the chimpanzees. The CHCI complex was opened on May 7, 1993. More than twenty years later, on August 28, 2013, the last two remaining chimpanzees moved out of the CHCI.


CHCI works to promote advocacy of chimpanzee conservation and the promotion of primate intellect. The sanctuary hosted public sessions, known as Chimposiums, which allowed the public to see the chimps in action. The sessions included a classroom section where the project was introduced and the visitors learned about the plight of chimpanzees in both captive and free-living situations, followed by a session observing and interacting with the chimps. For safety reasons, no one—visitors or staff—had physical contact with the chimps.

Research opportunities

CHCI hosted opportunities for both undergraduates and graduates. Many volunteered as docents or assistants within the center while others actually conducted research on primate behavior. CHCI had a firm policy of letting the chimpanzees dictate the rules—research projects which inconvenience the chimps in any way must be aborted. Research was mostly observational.

See also


  1. "CWU Chimpanzee Dar Dies at 36". Central Washington University. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  2. "CWU Chimpanzees Arrive Safely at Canadian Sanctuary". Central Washington University. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
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