Washoe is an approximately 36-year-old female chimpanzee who has been taught to communicate
using American Sign Language (ASL). Washoe is the first non-human to acquire a human language, and her adopted chimp son,
Loulis, is the first to acquire a human language from another chimpanzee. Washoe uses ASL to communicate with the human
researchers and caretakers as well as with the four other chimpanzees involved in the project. This project has changed
the way we look at our closest relatives and serves to improve conditions of captive chimps by alleviating their boredom.
The door of the lab opened and two visitors quietly walked in. Four of the chimpanzees
stopped in mid-activity and sat motionless, staring at the newcomers. The fifth and youngest looked for a moment and then
began to display, banging about the cage. The visitors were Allen and Beatrice Gardner. They had fostered the chimpanzees
who sat in stunned silence, but had not met the fifth, young Loulis. Washoe, after two or three minutes, broke the spell.
Signing Trixie Gardner's name sign, she added come hug. The other chimpanzees signed Allen Gardner's name. This was not too
surprising because they had seen the Gardner's recently, but Washoe had not seen Trixie for eleven years.