Koko is undoubtedly the most famous (non-fiction) gorilla in the world. She made headlines back in 1983 when she adopted a kitten and a photograph of her cradling the kitten made for a memorable National Geographic cover. Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo and when she was a year old, was loaned to primate researcher Francene Patterson and has been with her ever since. The use of language by great apes was a special interest of Patterson’s and she’s since taught Koko a version of sign language.
Patterson claims that Koko understands about 1,000 signs in “Gorilla Sign Language” and that she can understand twice as many words of spoken English. Koko apparently also understands the concept of displacement (talking about something not in the room), the use of language to talk about language, and can even use language deceptively for humorous effects. Unlike most gorillas, Koko is able to recognize that the “other gorilla” in the mirror is really herself. There has been considerable skepticism expressed by other scientists about some of Patterson’s claims. Whatever the story, there’s no doubt Koko is a remarkable gorilla.
Knowing how much Koko had loved her kitten all those years ago, her caretakers thought of a perfect present for her 44th birthday: a box of kittens! As you’ll see in the video we’ve posted below, she really liked the idea. She immediately takes a liking to a gray one, gently lifting the kitten from the box. Most of the black kitten meanwhile, decides she likes Koko. Thus it was that the gorilla adopted two of the four kittens. Koko even signs that she wants one of the kittens placed on her head! That tiny kitten perched on top of the massive, but loving gorilla is quite a sight!
Do you remember Koko and her earlier kitten from all those years ago? Amazed by the way a gorilla can do something so human-like keeping pets? Let’s hear from you in the comments at Facebook. Be sure to like and share, too!