It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Booie, the “Signing Chimp.” Booie gained celebrity when he was featured in a 1995 segment of 20/20 and had fans all over the country.
Born in 1967 at the National Institutes of Health, Booie was raised for a time with a resident doctor. Later he went to the Institute of Primate Studies at the University of Oklahoma where he was taught American Sign Language. In 1982, when funds ran out, they were forced to sell Booie and other chimps to NYU Lemsip, a research lab (Nim of the documentary "Project Nim" called Booie a neighbor there for a time).
After the 20/20 program aired, donations poured in to free Booie and five months later through the efforts of Dr. James Mahoney, NYU School of Medicine, and Martine Colette, Booie and eight other chimps were released to the Wildlife Waystation. These were the first chimpanzees released from biomedical research to a private sanctuary.
For the past 16 years, Booie has lived with a small group of chimpanzees and continued to use his sign language skills to make requests for treats or play.
It was a blessing for Booie that he could live out his life in the comfort of our sanctuary and a blessing for us to have had him as our friend. Booie, who had a heart condition, was 44 .
Memorial Donations: If you would like to make a donation in memory of Booie, you may do so on our website, by sending a check or calling our office. That information is listed under Contact on our home page