Chantek, the orangutan who used sign language, dies at 39

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Staff at the zoo were today mourning the loss of a much loved family member.

Chantek's rise to worldwide fame came nine months after his birth at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Georgia, when he was transferred to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to live with Dr Miles.

A male orangutan housed at Atlanta Zoo, who was among the first apes to learn sign language, as well as being able to clean his room and remember the way to his favourite fast-food restaurant, has died at the age of 39.

Chantek, one of the oldest male orangutans in North American zoos, lived with anthropologist Lyn Miles at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for about nine years.

Zoo Atlanta announced in September past year that the Animal Care and Veterinary Teams had begun a progressive medical regimen to treat Chanteks symptoms of heart disease. The rest of his years he spent at Zoo Atlanta.

"Chantek will be deeply missed by his family here at Zoo Atlanta". "He had such a unique and engaging personality and special ways of relating to and communicating with those who knew him best". Therefore, they were sad to find out the ape was suffering from heart disease. The orangutan was the first to voluntarily undergo an echocardiogram, so he was while fully awake.

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A necropsy, or the animal equivalent of an autopsy, is being performed through the Zoo?s partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The orangutan was also one of only a few apes who could communicate using American sign language.

He was transferred to the Atlanta Zoo in 1997 and often used sign language to communicate with the guard.

However, Chantek was quite shy in the presence of unknown people, and he used this language only among people he was familiar with.

The Atlanta Zoo began treatment in 2016 to decrease the symptoms of Chantek's heart disease.

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