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Orangutan Signing

"My passionate and life-long committment is to see Chantek and other enculturated apes as persons living in culture-bearing communities, with agency and choice." H. Lyn Miles

Dr. H. Lyn Miles is a biocultural anthropologist interested in the evolution of human symbol systems, how cutural processes interact with language and evolution, and what orangutans can tell use about language and intelligence. Through her experience as a scientific researcher as well as Chantek’s cross-foster mother, she is convinced of the personhood of enculturated apes and seeks to find them legal protection. She has also conducted preliminary field research with orangutans in Borneo at the Wanariset Research Center, and in the Meratus Forest. Her research is featured in the PBS NOVA program “Signs of the Apes, Songs of the Whales,” and in the Animal Planet production “They Call Him Chantek.”

She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut in 1978, after coursework at Yale University and research at the University of Oklahoma. She is UC Foundation Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Senior Research Fellow at Zoo Atlanta. She has lived in Atlanta, Georgia since 1993 in order to be close to Chantek, her cross-foster son. She is a strong supporter of orangutan conservation.

Dr. H. Lyn Miles is co-editor of Anthroporphism, Anecdoes and Animals, and The Mentality of Gorillas and Orangutans. She is currently working on a book, Chantek: The Enculturated Orangutan. She is a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and an Editorial Associate of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. She teaches courses at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in physical anthropology, primate behavior, ape language, and cognitive and linguistic anthropology.