Zoo Atlanta mourns the death of 39-year-old orangutan, Chantek

Bornean orangutan

Chantek's case was regularly reviewed by Great Ape Heart Project subject matter experts, including human cardiologists, from around the U.S. These partnerships and the insights gained as part of the close monitoring of his heart health will enable Chantek to continue to make lasting contributions to the care and health of orangutans and other apes living in zoos throughout North America and beyond.

One of the first apes to learn sign language - Chantek, the orangutan - passed away in the U.S. state of Georgia.

Hayley Murphy, vice president of the zoo's animal divisions, said: "Chantek will be deeply missed by his family here at Zoo Atlanta".

The Zoo Atlanta explains that Chantek had a "very unconventional upbringing", as he was an ape who was reared by humans in a human setting.

Before moving to Atlanta, Chantek lived with an anthropologist in Tennessee for about nine years, where he learned skills like cleaning his room and memorizing a route from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to a fast-food restaurant. Orangutans are considered geriatric after the age of about 35. At the university, researchers taught the orangutan at least 150 words in American Sign Language.

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Zoo Atlanta has lost a long-time member of its ape family, officials announced. According to a 1997 CNN article, Miles woke up with Chantek at 4 A.M. for feedings, toilet trained him, and taught him how to communicate using sign language.

Chantek the adorable orange orangutan who stole our hearts for 39 years has very sadly passed away. In many ways, Chantek was raised much like a human.

Chantek was one of the few primates who used American Sign Language to communicate, according to the BBC. "It has been our privilege to have had him with us for 20 years". While the cause of death has not been announced, he was being treated for heart disease, a leading cause of death among captive orangutans.

A spokesperson from Zoo Atlanta shared the sadness everyone feels concerning the great ape passing.

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