This is the intriguing story of Oliver, a chimp that was under media speculation whether his peculiar behaviour and appearance meant that he was a humanzee, a hybrid of an ape and a human.
Oliver. After a media uproar from the 1970s, Oliver was given the status of a ‘humanzee’ or a cross between a human and a chimp. In other words, a hybrid. Journalists all over the world were amazed at this bizarre creature that had very peculiar characteristics that one wouldn’t normally associate with an ape.
They branded Oliver as a ‘humanzee’ or ‘Bigfoot’ or ‘the missing link’. The question whether Oliver is a hybrid or an ape still remains till now, although scientific evidence proves it has been answered.
Oliver, along with another chimpanzee, was brought by Frank Burger from Africa to New Jersey in the 1960s. From the very start, both Frank and his wife Janet noticed that Oliver was different from the other chimps they trained.
From a very small age, Oliver could walk on two legs, a feat that not many apes can achieve and even if they are taught to do so, they can only sustain it for a short duration. Oliver had many facial characteristics that weren’t common in other apes. He had a small bald head with pointed ears and a smaller nose. This physical difference meant that Oliver was excluded by the other apes that he was surrounded by.
But this didn’t stop Oliver indulging in human characteristics. Oliver preferred human company and would watch the TV and smoke a cigar. After Frank died, his widow, Janet was in charge of the performing apes that they trained and she believed that Oliver was a Humanzee. She believed that he was like “a little human”.
Some other people close to the Burger family believed that “something is in there”. What set Oliver completely different from the other apes was when he reached maturity, Oliver started to have a very strong attraction to his owner Janet Burger and at times he wouldn’t leave her.
With an ape who was a lot like a human vying for her love, Oliver was then sent off to an attorney Michael Miller who brought Oliver to the media exposure. Oliver reached such heights of media success that he was all over the papers and the news and was even transported to Japan.
The trip to Japan was a turning point for Oliver because even though his owner was told it was going to be for scientific purposes, it was clear that the Japanese media wanted to portray Oliver for entertainment. In a show that grabbed in almost 26 million viewers, Oliver was given through a set of very simple tests conducted on him. A test looking for the centre of gravity in Oliver concluded that he was more human than ape.