Farewell, Booie

A famous Wildlife Waystation resident passes away at 44.

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Wednesday, Dec 14, 2011  |  Updated 2:20 PM PDT
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Booie, the famous Signing Chimp, has passed away at the Wildlife Waystation in Sylmar. He was 44.

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Many famous animals have called Hollywood and its environs home of the years, and for various reasons, too. Either they headlined a film or a television series or they served as a symbol of a prominent organization.

Booie, one of the most famous Wildlife Waystation residents, was one such local-gone-world-wide celebrity. Now sad news has come from the Sylmar animal sanctuary that the chimpanzee has passed away. Booie was 44 and had been under treatment for a heart condition.

The primate had many talents; chief among them was his ability to sign. His ability to use his words so effectively meant "(h)e had fans all over the country," according to Wildlife Waystation founder Martine Colette. It in fact leant Booie the nickname that stuck with him for a good long time: The Signing Chimp.

Those who knew Booie know that there was an earlier time in his life when he smoked -- yep, you read that right -- but Ms. Colette put a stop to that.

The chimpanzee started his life as a pet, and later lived in the vaccine research division of New York University Medical Center (Nim of the documentary "Project Nim" called Booie a neighbor there for a time). Booie arrived at the Sylmar sanctuary in 1995, and was placed in a small, tight-knit group of primates.

It was announced last month that donations have dropped dramatically for the animal sanctuary. Rumors say there might be a grant or two in the swirl, but a representative of the sanctuary said nothing has been confirmed and the station is still seeking help.

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