讀過大學懂手語紅毛猩猩逝世 視同類為「橙色狗」的傷感故事

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從前,有一隻紅毛猩猩,自小由一位人類學家照顧,被當作人一樣養大。結果,牠不但像人類一樣懂得使用工具,更學會手語,可以與人類溝通,徹底改變了科學家對紅毛猩猩的理解。牠甚至像人一樣上學讀書,一度成為校園的焦點,學生都喜歡跟牠玩樂。可是,隨著牠成長,身體愈發龐大,四肢也變得孔武有力,嚇怕了很多人。於是,牠又被人捉到動物園,困在籠裡生活,直至逝世為止。

上述故事並非虛構,那隻雄性的紅毛猩猩名為Chantek,牠身處的美國亞特蘭大動物園於周一(7日)宣布其死訊,終年39歲。

The Zoo Atlanta family is saddened to announce the passing of Chantek, a 39-year-old male orangutan, on August 7, 2017. Although his cause of death is not yet known, the Zoo’s Animal Care and Veterinary Teams had been treating Chantek with a regimen of advanced medical therapy targeted at mitigating his progressive heart disease. At 39, he was one of the oldest living male orangutans within the North American population of individuals overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP). Orangutans are considered geriatric after the age of about 35. Born December 17, 1977, at the Yerkes Language Research Center, Chantek was a beloved member of the Zoo’s orangutan population for 20 years, arriving at Zoo Atlanta in 1997. He was well-known for his knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL), learned prior to his arrival at the Zoo. Although he frequently used ASL to communicate with his caregivers, with whom he developed close personal bonds throughout his years at Zoo Atlanta, he was shy about signing with individuals he did not know and often chose forms of communication which are more typical of orangutans, such as vocalizations and unique hand gestures. “Chantek will be deeply missed by his family here at Zoo Atlanta. He had such a unique and engaging personality and special ways of relating to and communicating with those who knew him best. It has been our privilege to have had him with us for 20 years and to have been given the opportunity to offer him a naturalistic environment where he could get to know and live with his orangutan family,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “Chantek’s long life is a great testament to the dedication of his care team and to the work of the Great Ape Heart Project, the combined efforts of which made it possible for us to give him the best care and quality of life the zoological community has to offer.” Please click the link in our bio to read the full story.

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Chantek是世上首批學會人類手語的猩猩之一,亞特蘭大動物園的工作人員對牠的離世都感到可惜。「Chantek將會被亞特蘭大動物園這個大家庭深深記念。他擁有一種獨特和迷人的個性,跟一些了解他的人溝通與連繫時,他都會用一些特別的方式。」動物園的高級人員梅菲(Hayley Murphy)說。動物園暫時未確認Chantek的死因,懷疑與心臟病有關。一般而言,紅毛猩猩踏入35歲,已算老年,因此牠活到39歲,已算少有。

對於Chantek的離世,最為惋惜的人,相信是有份養大Chantek的美國女人類學家邁爾斯(Lyn Miles)。1978年,邁爾斯獲田納西大學獲聘參與一項實驗,那就是以養育年幼的Chantek,把牠當成人類一樣,測試到底猩猩能否學習人類的行為。

▲ 2014年11月,養大Chantek的人類學家邁爾斯曾在TED演講,講述她與Chantek的故事。

▋ 學手語速度快 懂自創表達方式

在兩星期內,9個月大的Chantek已經掌握到部分簡單的手語詞彙,並將它們拼在一起表達意思,例如「食物-吃」、「給我-喝」。當牠長大了一點,就開始到幼稚園上課,與其他大學職員的孩子一同學習。一眾小朋友都非常接納牠作為同學,牠尤其喜歡上畫畫班。

由於Chantek經常出現在大學校園,所有老師學生已很快知道牠的存在,也感到熟悉,而牠的照片甚至出現在大學年鑑上。牠學會的手語愈來愈多,而且會自創一些用法,取代一些他不懂得的詞彙,例如將「茄汁」變成「蕃茄牙膏」。

紅毛猩猩Chantek懂得150個手語詞彙,完全扭轉了過往科學家對紅毛猩猩的理解。(路透社)

▋ 強壯身驅令人害怕 終被送到動物園

隨著牠長大,牠的身體變大變壯,也變得更加愛好冒險。牠的手指非常有力,可以靈活利用工具去拆毀校園的圍欄,在校園各處自由遊盪。由於牠體積龐大,學生開始對牠感到害怕。

許是由於擔心威脅到師生的安全,怕出意外或惹上官非。Chantek8歲那年,在邁爾斯不知情下,牠有一天突然被科學家帶回實驗室。當邁爾斯看見Chantek的時候,牠以手語向她表示︰「媽媽,取車,回家。」邁爾斯問牠是否生病了,牠回答︰「受傷。感受。」邁爾斯對此感到非常難過。

兩年後,Chantek被送到美國亞特蘭大動物園,與其他紅毛猩猩一起生活。但顯然Chantek並不覺得自己與牠們同類,並稱牠們是「橙色的狗」。自此,邁爾斯必須前往動物園,才可探訪牠。Chantek懂得過百個手語詞彙,但牠入住動物園後忘記了很多,但牠仍然記得怎樣表達「我愛你」。

2014年,美國公共電視網(PBS)將Chantek的故事拍成紀錄片,名為《上大學的猩猩》(The Ape Who Went to College)。

(綜合報道)



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