Yep, gotta agree with the critics here. The chimpanzee may have been adept at learning the motions to replicate the signs, but I don't think the animal actually grasped language.
SPOKANE, Wash. - Washoe, a female chimpanzee said to be the first non-human to acquire human language, has died of natural causes at the research institute where she was kept.
Washoe, who first learned a bit of American Sign Language in a research project in Nevada, had been living on Central Washington University's Ellensburg campus since 1980. Her keepers said she had a vocabulary of about 250 words, although critics contended Washoe and some other primates learned to imitate sign language, but did not develop true language skills.
Enough anthropomorphization. Respect animals, treat them well, try to protect them from everything, if you must. But, please, stop trying to make them human.