A few years back in 1973, a project was put together to try and study Chimpanzees and see if they could act like humans and use American Sign Language to communicate. Nim, the chimp that was taken from his mother early on and raised in a human household died in 2000 after being shuffled around due to his aggressive behavior that became more apparent over the years.
Nim Chimpsky started this process with Stephanie LaFarge in upper Manhattan. LaFarge had other children that were raised along side Nim and she truly grew attached to him. Unfortunately, after some years he was biting the other children and acting out, much like a wild animal. Jenny Lee was one of LaFarge’s children, who was 13 at the time that Nim was brought to them. She recalls good memories, but she also recalls the biting and aggressiveness.
NPR – “While Jenny and her siblings went to school, Nim learned sign language with researchers at Columbia University. The goal was to open up a window into Nim’s thoughts and to see if he could develop real language skills. When he came home each night, Nim would play with the Lee children and mimic their behavior. But as he aged, he became more aggressive — and no one knew what to do.”
Eventually he was moved to private grounds at the University of Oklahoma, where he met Bob Ingersoll. Mr. Ingersoll quickly became attached to Nim and the two became quick friends. In fact, “While taking long walks around the grounds of the primate facility, Ingersoll occasionally smoked pot with Nim, who had been introduced to marijuana in New York City and even appeared in the magazine High Times in 1975.” Ingersoll had said that Nim “actually signed ‘stone smoke time now’ to us first”.
After spending nearly nine years with Nim, Ingersoll had to see him be moved to a research facility, which he eventually helped rescue him from. Here, Nim was living in a cage, which this human-like chimp was never accustomed to (not that any animal should be). After the rescue, he was moved to another facility, but this time the ranch was for abused animals.