Washoe, "the first non-human to learn American Sign Language," passed away last night, October 30 2007, at the age of 42. A long life for chimpanzees, and an interesting one for sure.
I just recently read Roger Fouts's book Next of Kin, the primatologist who worked with Washoe from the time she was a year old, and it is amazing what Washoe and Fouts accomplished together. It is always also sad to discover someone so inspiring only to have them die shortly afterward, or to learn that they just died.
I hope Washoe's family is doing okay with the loss of their matriarch. This only inspires me more to make the drive out to Ellensburg and visit the rest of the chimpanzees before they all pass away. I'm fascinated to see how much of their play is verbal vs. signing vs. physical. Maybe for my birthday (they just closed for the season). Rest in Peace, Washoe.