Chantek, the orangutan who used sign language, dies

An orangutan who was one of the first apes to learn sign language has died in Atlanta, aged 39.

Chantek lived with an anthropologist in Tennessee for about nine years and learned to clean his room, make and use tools and memorise the route to a fast-food restaurant.

He spent his later years in Zoo Atlanta where he was treated for heart disease.

Zoo officials said he had “an engaging personality” and would be deeply missed.

His cause of death was not yet known, it said, but vets had been treating him for progressive heart disease. Orangutans are considered geriatric after the age of about 35, the zoo added.

A 2014 documentary called ‘The Ape Who Went to College’ showed that Chantek had learned various skills there including cleaning his room and directing a driving route from the university to a restaurant.