(Koko holding her kitten, All Ball, whom she named for her “round”, small shape.)
Koko: kitten-cuddler, movie-watcher, musician, student of sign language… Gorilla!
I am not sure whether Koko was born in captivity, but she was definitely raised amongst people from a young age. How she began the amazing process of learning sign language is explained in the video below!
Finally, although we still have a long way to go, we are giving a non-human animal the chance to communicate with us by teaching her how to. Humans have a tendency to label animals as stupid, simply due to the fact that they don’t understand or speak English.
For example, if someone didn’t understand a word of English, would you speak louder or yell? Get frustrated? Think they were dumb? It seems like that’s what people have done with animals.
When it comes down to it, how can we really know what is going on in their minds? There is a limit to what studies and experiments can tell us, but no limit to what the animal itself can communicate to us through a mutual language, such as sign language.
I would also like to share this video of Koko receiving a visit from her kitten, “All Ball”. You can see her cuddling with her in that picture up on the top of this post. I love this video in particular, a little unrelated to the sign language topic, I know, because of how extremely gentle Koko is being with this kitten. On part 1:22, you can even see her shielding the kitten’s head from the cage door.
It’s beautiful to see an animal, a gorilla, so big handle such a delicate, small baby animal with so much care and love.
Below, is another video of a gorilla, Michael, signing. He passed away in 2000, leaving Koko as the last “talking” gorilla. This video really pulls at the heart a bit as he recalls a memory from his childhood. Michael was witness to his mother’s death and slaughter – bush meat.