Today is the 45th birthday of one of the world’s best known gorillas, Koko. A female western lowland gorilla, Koko was born July 4, 1971, and is known for her incredible ability to learn and communicate via sign language.
Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo and has lived most of her life in California. Her full name, Hanabiko, literally translates to “fireworks child” in reference to her birth date. In addition to her language skills, Koko also gained publicity recently, when she adopted a kitten.
The video below is a preview for the upcoming PBS/ BBC documentary on the life of Koko. What started as a research project for trainer Penny Patterson, has continued in a life long love and friendship between caregiver and animal. Penny has cared for Koko and continued to teach her sign language over the years. At age 19, Koko passed the “mirror test”, and important indication of self-awareness that most other gorillas fail. It is also reported that Koko can relay personal memories, and has been able to use deceptive language for humorous effect, again signs of the complexity of mind.
Although the publicity around Koko has not been without criticism, she has continued to make headlines and has been the subject of several books and documentaries. Stories like Koko’s also open up the debate and blur the lines between human and animal rights, leading some countries to reconsider the rights granted to non-human primates.
The PBS/ BBC documentary is scheduled to premier on August 3.
Photo Credit: Kokoflix