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CWU Hopes To Replace Chimps Who Died

Friends of Washoe

The director of a chimpanzee institute at Central Washington University says she feels urgency to bring in new animals. The education and research program in Ellensburg is now down to two aging chimps after the weekend death of another ape known for his sign language abilities.

The chimpanzee named "Dar" was 36 years old when he died unexpectedly on Saturday of unknown causes. Autopsy results are expected later this week.

Dar was originally part of a five-member chimp family at Central Washington University. They gained fame for their ability to communicate in American Sign Language.

The director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at CWU, Mary Lee Jensvold, is both grieving and looking ahead.

"Chimps are very social critters. We have two chimps here now left. And so, we need to figure something out. I do feel it is important to bring in other chimps, to do that soon."

Jensvold expects no trouble finding new chimps. But first she says her institute needs to renovate the animal enclosure. And that's a big hurdle given the multimillion dollar cost in an era of tight university budgets.

On the Web:

Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (Central Washington University)

Background and photos of Dar (Friends of Washoe)

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.