|A Talking Gorilla Named Koko (Bio and video)|
|Written by Administrator|
Koko, a female lowland gorilla, was born July 4th, 1971, in San Francisco, California and had lived most of her life in The Gorilla Foundation in mountainous Woodside.
Koko is short for the name Hanabi-Ko, meaning "fireworks child" in Japanese (a reference to her date of birth, the Fourth of July). Under the guidance of Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson, she became the first gorilla to show, without a shadow of a doubt, just how close to humans gorillas really are. Koko was taught sign language as part of the Gorilla Language Project. She has advanced further with language than any other non-human with a vocabulary of over 1000 signs. Koko understands approximately 2,000 words of spoken English. Koko initiates the majority of conversations with her human companions and typically constructs statements averaging three to six words. Koko has a tested IQ of between 70 and 95 on a human scale, where 100 is considered "a normal human."
In spite of all her accomplishments, one thing that seems to get most people's attention isn't only her ability to communicate in sign language, but her capacity to express complex feelings in a very human way. Through her, we could understand a little better that deep emotional reactions to pain, suffering, happiness and all other emotions commonly associated to humans seem to be true of many other living creatures.
That capacity to express it in ways WE could understand has made her the center of a lot of media attention in the form of documentaries and interviews. But what should we take from that? That gorillas are smart? We've known that. That gorillas have feelings. Most people who have been around animals wouldn't doubt that. Then what?
One thing people forget when observing Koko's gifts is that she is part of a group of animals that is in the endangered list and that might disappear if we don't take action to protect them and their environment.
Koko is a gentle beast who cried when her kitten "All Ball" died and who has tolerated our interference and confinement with love and patience. The least we can do is learn from her that this planet would be a very lonely place if we didn't have so many magnificent creatures to share it with.