Interesting History of Lucy the Human Chimp: The Ape Raised Like a Human


So much is now well known about the similarities we have with other primates, it is not difficult to forget that until relatively currently, we were still establishing precisely where we humans came to an end and apes began.

Through the 20th century, the chimpanzee’s study specifically was a way to gain knowledge about ourselves: how we might cope in space, for instance, and how we might have communications without a common tongue.


(Photo : Getty Images)

The Temerlins Raised Lucy in Their Home 

The Human Chimp, Lucy, a new KEO Films TV documentary, Channel 4, explores the meeting of those worlds through one special relationship story: that between a chimpanzee trained as a human, Lucy, and a graduate student employed to clean her cage, Janis Carter. Through the late 1960s, Lucy was the topic of studies that are high-profiled by psychologists Jane and Maurice Temerlin, apparently to explore the nurture versus nature limits.

The Temerlins raised Lucy in their home, as though she was a human child, to the point of educating her to dress herself up, eat with the use of silverware and even fix a gin and tonic. Primatologist Roger Fouts, whose success in educating a chimp called Washoe a type of American Sign Language was greatly publicized in 1970, also taught Lucy a vocabulary of about 100 signs (though the degree of apes’ comprehension of signing stays disputed).

Also Read: Humans 10x Better Than Chimps and Macaques When It Comes to Temperature Control

Carter as a Carer For Lucy

The Temerlins eventually came to see the chimp as their daughter. Much has been created of the story of Lucy, both an episode of the commended Radiolab podcast. Lucy, The Human Chimp, written and directed by Alex Parkinson, put Carter forward to disclose what happened next.

Carter had been a 25-year-old student of psychology in the University of Oklahoma’s chimp research project when, in 1976, she replied to the Temerlins’ vacancy for a half-time carer for Lucy. After an unfriendly beginning – Carter recalls the chimp as “very condescending and arrogant,” about her low comprehension of sign language – the two created a close bond. But the adolescent chimp continuously constitute a threat to her human family and was constricted to a cage.


(Photo : Sane Noor)

Carter and Lucy’s Travel to Gambia  

The Temerlins in 1977 made a decision to convey 12-year-old Lucy to Gambia to be educated on how to survive in the wild; Carter went along to assist. For her, a journey of some weeks turned into years as Lucy finds it difficult to adapt to life as a chimp.

Then, from 1979 she lived for almost seven years on an otherwise island in the Gambia river that was uninhabited, alongside Lucy and a small group of captive and orphaned chimps. In 1985, Carter left the island after a juvenile male mauled her, superseding her as a leader.

More so than might be concluded from its title, the focus of Parkinson’s movie is on Carter and Lucy’s relationship, as told by Carter herself. A discussion with Jane Temerlin and accomplishment by actors (centered on first-hand accounts) made some context available, but little by way of serious distance. 

Related Article: Russian Scientist Attempted to Create Human-Chimp Hybrid, But the Results Were an ‘Abomination’

For more news, updates about human chimp and similar topics don’t forget to follow Nature World News!

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