Jun 8, 2008

Silent Partners

the Legacy of the Ape Language Experiments
by Eugene Linden

In the 1970's, several different types of experiments were undertaken to teach apes sign language. Ten years later, lack of funding, loss of outside interest and internal conflicts between the researchers brought the studies to a halt. In this solemn report, Linden relates what happened to the apes afterwards- from famous one like Koko the gorilla, chimps Washoe, Lucy and Nim- to those unknown to the public as well. Very few of them reached a happy ending. Some were sold to zoos, other to research labs. One was taken off to be rehabilitated into the wild- with sad results. Raising questions of animal rights and ethics, Silent Partners also confronts the responsibility we have to animals whose lives have been altered by us. Having lived for years in close company with humans, and learned to communicate their desires and needs to us, how could one of these apes feel anything less than misery to be shut up in a cage at a zoo or lab? For a time I was interested in these language experiments, and read a number of books about them (reviews are coming!), becoming familiar with their individual failures, successes and personalities. So it was very sad for me to read of their fate.

Rating: 3/5                247 pages, 1986


  1. I don't know whether I would like to know what happened. It has to be bad. Ignorance is bliss in this instance

  2. there was chimp sign language research going on at CWU. I was sometimes able to hear them from my apartment when they were let outside to play.

  3. That's cool, Terra. I think I remember reading about one of the chimps being at the university. Was it Washoe?


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