Oliver: A Legendary Humanzee
Oliver, a chimpanzee, was considered a human-chimp hybrid due to his unusual appearance and his human-like behaviour. He would walk upright like human beings, was habitually bipedal, preferred human company rather than chimps, smoked cigars and loved to mix drinks and that instantly gave him celebrity status. Mind-boggling isn’t it? Was he part human, or the missing link?
Oliver’s Road to Fame
Oliver was captured in 1970s from the African Congo region and sold to animal trainers from South Africa – Frank and Janet Burger. Oliver possesses a flatter face than his fellow chimpanzees (as his teeth were removed), his ears and jawline were shaped a bit differently than the normal chimps, powerful shoulders straight and broad, arms swinging at his sides – instead of hunched forward and using his hands and arms, like most chimps and less hairy.
He immediately learned to drink, enjoy coffee, watch television in the evening and also preferred human females to female chimps, and to such an extent that he made sexual advances toward Janet Burger and other women. As a result she sold Oliver to a New York appellate lawyer Michael Miller in or before 1976.
This was the time when Oliver came into the limelight, with Miller raking in the moolah and promoting him as a ‘missing link.’ He travelled around the world and made appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Oliver was a jet-setter. A recent documentary on Discovery Channel also showed Oliver touring Japan, and the entire country was so fascinated with Oliver that a Japanese actress in a cheap publicity stunt said that she didn’t mind mating with Oliver.
Well, that was the only time she grabbed the media’s attention. Miller, his then owner, was willing to take Oliver to Japan on the promise that the ‘missing link’ would be resolved through some scientific observation. Those results revealed that Oliver had 47 chromosomes and might be a man-ape hybrid.
Was Oliver a human-chimp hybrid, a kind of mutant chimp or one of the new species?
In a sensationalised publicity that surrounded Oliver, it was reported that Oliver had 47 chromosomes – one less than an ordinary chimpanzee and one more than a human being. For years this news circulated that Oliver was a man-ape amalgam. However, these reports were refuted in 1997, when detailed genetic testing revealed that Oliver had 48 chromosomes and he was a chimp, just a CHIMP.
“He’s not a human-chimp hybrid. His chromosome number is 48, which is a normal chimp karyotype,” said Dr David Ledbetter, a geneticist at the University of Chicago who analysed Oliver’s chromosomes. That put an end to this really long mystery and laid rest all the speculations. While this was unknown, Oliver was a celebrity who was watched by 26 million people and he was the favourite in all the theme parks.
Oliver is one of the elders at the refuge, and is almost completely blind. He spends his time sitting in the park with the pigeons. When he walks, he walks on all 4s, the way chimps naturally walk.
Oliver is no longer living alone, a female chimp named Raisin was placed with him as a companion. I am sure he does his best to impress her!
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