Koko is without a doubt the most famous (non-fictional) gorilla in the world. She won the hearts of the world back in 1983 when she adopted a kitten and appeared on a memorable National Geographic cover cradling her new pet in her arms. Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo and when she was a year old, was loaned to primate researcher Francine Patterson and has been in her care ever since. Patterson was interested in the use of sign language by great apes and has taught Koko a kind of sign language.
According to Patterson, Koko can understand about 1,000 signs in “Gorilla Sign Language” as well as twice as many words in spoken English. Koko’s understanding of language is apparently quite sophisticated: she’s able to talk about things that aren’t present, use language to talk about language, and even make use of deceptive language for humorous effect. However, other scientists have expressed a lot of skepticism about Patterson’s claims. Regardless, there can be no doubt that Koko is a remarkable gorilla.
When Koko turned 44, her caretakers had a special present for her. They remembered how much the gorilla had loved the kitten she’d had over 30 years before and so they decided a box of kittens would be the perfect birthday present! As you’ll see in the video posted below, Koko loved this idea. She took an immediate liking to a gray kitten, gently lifting it from the box. Meanwhile, a mostly black kitten effectively adopted the gorilla. Koko signed that she wanted a kitten placed on her head and the sight of that tiny kitten perched on the enormous but gentle gorilla’s head is just adorable.
Surprised that a gorilla could do something as human as having a pet? Or do you remember Koko and her first kitten? Let us know in the comments at Facebook and don’t forget to like and share!