Koko the Gorilla Has Changed Human-Animal Communication


Compared to other western lowland gorillas, Koko's ability to interact and mimic with humans was superior. Koko the Gorilla became well known around the world with her knowledge of human sign language. She also took a picture of herself in a mirror for the cover of National Geographic in 1978, and adopted a cat named All Ball.

Koko was born on July 4, 1971. Around the time that Koko was born, psychologist Penny Patterson started to work with her at the San Francisco Zoo for a language research project. Patterson taught Koko American Sign Language.

An example of Koko´s emotional maturity took place in 1984, when her cat All Ball got hit by a car and passed away. Patterson asked Koko “What happened to Ball?” and Koko responded with “Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love.”

In 2001, Koko met Robin Williams. She liked to show him around, try on his glasses, and make funny faces at him. After that visit, Koko was one of many who mourned Williams' death in 2014.

In 2012, Koko amazed scientists by showing them that she could play the recorder. Because of that, scientists realized that primates can learn to intricately control their breathing. Koko showed that some animals are capable of doing complex tasks just as well as humans.

Sadly, Koko died while she was asleep on June 19th, 2018, at age 46. She changed the world's perspective on human-animal communication and she also revealed depth and strength in emotional learning. She showed merriment and grief with her psychologist and friend, Patterson. The Gorilla Foundation will honor her legacy by working on wildlife conservation in Africa, a great ape sanctuary in Maui, and a sign language app.

[Source: npr.org]

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