Koko, the gorilla recognized worldwide for her mastery of a variation of American Sign Language, recently amazed everyone with her sweet love for babies, an emotion she usually shows through hand signs for ‘baby’ and playacting with her gorilla dolls.
Koko’s trainer, Francine Patterson, acknowledged her fondness for babies by introducing her to kittens on her 44th birthday.
In the touching encounter, Koko used sign language to express her adoption of the kittens, associating them with signs for ‘cat’ and ‘baby.’ The gentle giant even requested a kitten placed on her head.
The poignant scene unfolded as Koko, with hands large enough to dwarf the kittens, carefully reached out to the kittens, exhibiting immense care and sensitivity.
Her first interaction was leisurely, allowing the kittens to adjust to her presence before she cradled a grey kitten and patted its belly affectionately.
Further into the story, we witness another kitten trying to wriggle out of a carrier bag, seeking Koko’s warmth. The heartwarming episode concludes with Koko signing that these kittens were her babies.
Alongside the video, it is shared that the bond between Koko and the kittens has blossomed into a joyful family setup.
Patterson has reported that Koko comprehends over 1,000 signs, aptly referred to as ‘Gorilla Sign Language,’ and understands roughly 2,000 English words.
Koko’s adoption of the kittens has added a vibrant dynamic to her life, boosting her sign language interactions with her caregivers and creating a wealth of new content for The Gorilla Foundation.
The Foundation underlines the potential value of this content for enhancing empathy towards apes and promoting two-way communication between apes and caregivers.
Koko’s life, mostly spent at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, includes companionship with two male gorillas.
However, attempts at mating or adding other female gorillas have yet to be successful. The Foundation’s website reveals her deep desire to have a baby.
Furthermore, Koko’s love for kittens dates back to 1984, when she used sign language to ask for a Christmas cat.
This ability and her control over her vocal and breathing behaviors contradict traditional beliefs about apes’ capabilities.
Researcher Marcus Perlman challenged the assumption of human uniqueness in speech abilities. His work at The Gorilla Foundation involved the study of Koko’s gestures and unique vocal behaviors.
Together with Nathaniel Clark of the University of California, Santa Cruz, they recorded instances of Koko performing nine different behaviors involving control over her vocalization and breathing, contradicting established theories.
This groundbreaking evidence, including Koko’s diverse vocal behaviors like blowing a ‘raspberry’ for treats or mimicking phone conversations, suggests that human speech capability may not be as unique as previously thought.
Read more Wildlife News.