Francine Neago

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Francine Neago
A Young Orangutan in a Loving Home cover.jpg
Born Paris, France
Citizenship French, British
Nationality French
Fields Primatology, medicine
Institutions UCLA, IBM, Surabaya Zoological Park, Singapore Zoo, Lion Country Safari
Alma mater University College London
Known for Orangutan language programs, preservation of endangered great apes

Francine Neago is a primatologist and conservationist specializing in orangutans. She is best known for teaching an orangutan sign language and spelling.

Early life[edit]

Neago was born and received her B.Sc in Paris, later trained in London as a general practitioner in medicine, and speaks French, English, Indonesian, Spanish, and Italian.[1] From 1965 to 1977 she studied the behavior and language of Great Apes at Indonesia's Surabaya Zoological Park. At that time she also volunteered as a park veterinarian, founded a free medical clinic and hospital, and led relief projects for Indonesian people. In 1977 she lived for six months inside a cage at the Singapore Zoo with eighteen orangutans to study their behavior and communication.


Neago developed a computer system used by the Smithsonian National Zoo to teach language to orangutans.[2] She ran the world's first orangutan language study, teaching an ape named Bulan sign language and spelling in a phonetic alphabet.[3] She has called for other scientists to continue the program.[4]

Between 1978 and 1989 she lectured in primatology at UCLA. In 1980 she organized the rehabilitation of chimpanzees from cages in laboratories to the Lion Country Safari in Florida. Between 1990 and 1995 she rehabilitated local wildlife in the jungle of Costa Rica, and from 1996 to 1997 she organized the rehabilitation of endangered wildlife in a private zoo in Riau Province in Sumatra. In 2004 she began work toward establishing a 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) sanctuary in Malaysia. In 2006 she co-authored a book comparing how an orphaned orangutan she raised in her home behaved similarly to a human child.[5] In 2007 she set up the Bali Endangered Animal Rescue (BEAR) center in Bali.[6] She founded the wildlife sanctuary Noah and his Ark, now located 3 kilometres from Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.[7] In 2011 the Asia News Network reported that she intended to set up an orangutan language centre in Sarawak.[8] In 2012 she began training guides and rangers at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.[9]


External links[edit]