Other Great Ape Language Projects

There have been a surprisingly few long-term (“longitudinal”) interspecies communication studies with great apes, but there has been at least one with each of the 4 non-human great ape species. Project Koko is the only ape language study involving gorillas. Project Washoe is one of several involving chimpanzees, and Washoe (who passed away in 2007) transmitted her sign language skills to a son named Louis. Project Chantek is the only long-term one involving orangutans. And Project Kanzi is one of several involving Bonobos, and features a novel “lexigram” (symbolic language board) approach rather than sign language.

Project Koko (Gorillas) Project Washoe (Chimpanzees)
Project Chantek (Orangutan) Project Kanzi(Bonobos)


Because there hasn’t been a robust effort to breed these “enculturated great apes” you might say that language-using great apes are somewhat “endangered.” Because of the effort and lifelong dedication required to sustain an ape language project that is of mutual benefit to the apes and their caregivers, the Gorilla Foundation is building a team of strategic partners to foster the next generation of scientists and great apes that can continue these extraordinarily valuable interspecies dialogues.