Unsolved Mysteries Wiki


Case File: Oliver
Location: Florida
Date: 1960
Description: Oliver was a chimpanzee with apparent human-like characteristics.


History: In 1960, trainers Frank and Janet Burger acquired Oliver the Chimpanzee when he was about two years old. Some physical and behavioral evidence suggested to the Burgers that he was something more than a chimpanzee, perhaps a human-chimp hybrid. His face is flatter than other chimpanzees, he is a bipedal, and possibly preferred human female over chimpanzee females.
In 1975, attorney Michael Miller met with Oliver after reading about him in a newspaper. A few hours later, Miller bought Oliver for $8000. In Spring 1976, Miller showed Oliver to the audience of the Explorer's Club banquet. Oliver soon became well-known in the scientific and entertainment community. Later that year, he was invited to appear on a Japanese TV show. For three weeks, he toured the country. Throughout the tour, he was given several medical exams.
In 1977, Miller gave Oliver to Ralph Helfer, a small theme park owner in Buena Park, California. The Los Angeles Times did an article about how Oliver may be the missing link or a new sub-species of chimp. Oliver was later owned by Ken Decroo, until he sold him in 1985. Bill Rivers was the last trainer to own Oliver until he was purchased by a Pennsylvania laboratory in 1989.
He was kept in a small cage until 1996, when Sharon Hursh from Primarily Primates rescued him and brought him to a Florida animal habitat where he has remained since. Many scientists have investigated Oliver, which many believe is a link between humans and chimpanzees. To this day, nobody knows if Oliver is just another chimpanzee, a chimp/human, or a new, undiscovered species.
Background: Oliver the Chimpanzee was born around 1958, apparently captured in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Investigations: Testing by Japanese doctors showed that he had forty-eight chromosomes. However, two of the forty-cells only had forty-seven chromosomes. A geneticist from the University of Chicago examined Oliver's chromosomes in 1996, and revealed that he had forty-eight, not forty-seven chromosomes, therefore disproving the previous claim that he did not have the same amount of chromosomes as a chimp. The investigation revealed that Oliver's cranial morphology, ear shape, freckles, and baldness seem to match that of a common Chimpanzee.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the January 31, 1997 episode.
Results: Solved. Scientists have since determined that Oliver is genetically an ordinary Chimp. Sadly, he died in June of 2012; at the time of his passing, he was still in Florida under the care of Primarily Primates.