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File:Lucy and Janis hugging.png

Lucy (1964–1987)[1] was a chimpanzee owned by the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma, and raised by Maurice K. Temerlin, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and professor at the University of Oklahoma and his wife, Jane.


Temerlin and his wife raised Lucy as if she were a human child. She was taught rudimentary American Sign Language by primatologist Roger Fouts as part of an ape language project and eventually learned 140 signs.

By the time she was 12, Lucy had become very strong and was very destructive in the Temerlin house. Eventually, she was shipped to a chimpanzee rehabilitation center in Gambia, accompanied by University of Oklahoma psychology graduate student Janis Carter.[2] For years, Lucy was unable to relate to the other chimps in the rehabilitation center, and never reproduced, displaying sexual attraction only to humans. Lucy showed many signs of depression, including refusal to eat, and expressed "hurt" via sign language. Though her adopted Temerlin parents stayed with Lucy for only a few weeks in Gambia, Janis Carter remained at the Center for years, devoting a great deal of time to helping Lucy assimilate to life in the wild.

A year after leaving Lucy, Carter returned with some of Lucy's belongings. Lucy and a group of chimps greeted her, and Lucy embraced her, and then left with the other chimps without turning back, which Carter interpreted as Lucy having assimilated to life as a chimpanzee. One year after that, Carter returned and found Lucy's skeleton with hands missing and head separated from the rest of the body, and no sign of skin or hair, from which Carter concluded that Lucy had been poached.[3][4] However, others who were intimately involved in Lucy's rehabilitation question this possibility, because the skeleton, in its advanced state of decomposition, could not provide evidence of poaching over some other cause of death.[5]

Public radio coverageEdit

In early 2010, Lucy's life-story was the subject of a one-hour Radiolab episode 702, "Lucy".[6] Excerpts of this show were also included in the February 19, 2010, episode of This American Life, Episode 401, "Parent Trap". Both stories focus on Lucy's lifelong emotional stress.[7]


Lucy was observed prevaricating (i.e. lying)[8] – something that was once considered uniquely human, because it is evidence of a sense of self.[How to reference and link to summary or text] In this sign-language conversation, Fouts asks Lucy about a pile of chimpanzee feces on the floor:[8]

Fouts: What that?
Lucy: What that?
Fouts: You known. What that?
Lucy: Dirty dirty.
Fouts: Whose dirty dirty?
Lucy: Sue. [a reference to Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a graduate student of Fouts]
Fouts: It not Sue. Whose that?
Lucy: Roger!
Fouts: No! Not mine. Whose?
Lucy: Lucy dirty dirty. Sorry Lucy.

References Edit

  1. Dale Peterson (1995). Chimpanzee Travels: On and Off the Road in Africa, 136, 151, London: The University of Georgia Press.
  2. Douglas Foster. 35 Who Made a Difference: Janis Carter. Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institution. URL accessed on 2008-03-29.
  3. dead link
  4. Steven M. Wise (2000). Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.
  5. Animal People I Nov. 06 Did poachers really kill Lucy, the sign language chimp?
  6. includeonly>WNYC Radio. "Radiolab Show 702 - Lucy", Radio, NPR and Public Radio Exchange, January 2010. Retrieved on 13 April 2010.
  7. includeonly>This American Life. "Episode 401: Parent Trap", WBEZ Radio, 2010-02-19. Retrieved on 13 April 2010. (in en-US)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Fouts, Roger; Mills, Stephen Tukel (1997), Next of kin: What Chimpanzees Have Taught Me About Who We Are, William Morrow and Co, p. 156, ISBN 978-0-688-14862-1 
  • Temerlin, Maurice. (1976) Lucy: Growing Up Human: A Chimpanzee Daughter in a Psychotherapist's Family ISBN 0-8314-0045-5
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