The late-great comedic genius “Robin Williams” was known for his great banter skills, once he started on a subject there was no stopping him. His mind would work at a 100-miles-an-hour and his mouth would be even faster. I never saw an interview with him that didn’t make me laugh so much I was in tears. But in the following clip, this master of the one-liners and exquisite story teller is totally speechless.
Robin once got to meet a very special Gorilla named “Hanabi-Ko”, also known as “Koko”. Koko is a very special animal indeed. She first came to the attention of a young Psychology student named “Penny Paterson” as a malnourished baby at the San Francisco zoo. The ape, once back to health, became the subject of the longest continuous experiment ever undertaken. The chance to teach another species of animal language. 40-years-on and Koko has a vocabulary of over 1000 words and is fluent in Sign Language.
Koko, the female “Western Lowland Gorilla” was born in 1971, making her the ripe-old-age of 47 years young. The sign language that she excels at is what Penny refers to as “Gorilla Sign Language” and is a modified version of “American Sign Language”. She was first loaned to Penny for her Doctoral research, but has been with her ever since. Her name “Hanabi-Ko” literally means “Fireworks Child” and refers to her birth date, the 4th of July. She is also the one of the few recorded cases of non-humans to have a pet. Her handler reported that she asked for a cat for Christmas in 1983, worried about her request they gave her a stuffed animal but she was not satisfied with that and kept signing that she was sad, so it was decided that on her birthday in 1994 she could chose a cat from a litter on abandoned kittens. She choose a grey male Manx, and named him “All Ball”
This amazing creature has taught us that we are not the only intelligent creatures on our planet. It begs the question, “What is intelligence”? What we perceive as intelligence may just be the tip of the iceberg, and that there is a lot more to understand that our animal families can teach us, not only about nature, but about ourselves.
The clip below is truly amazing to watch. The expression on Robins face tell us all just how lucky he was to have such an experience up-close-and-personal with this incredible animal. You can see that this was a privilege that only a few lucky people have had, but fortunately for us it was recorded for all to enjoy. Sit back and watch this incredible footage of two superstars meeting for the first time.