Koko, whose IQ was rated at 95 points, knew more than a thousand words, taught the language of gestures of her congeners and herself chose the desired pets.

Gorilla Coco, along with the animal psychologist Francine Patterson, who taught her sign language almost from birth. Photos The Gorilla Foundation
Gorilla Coco, along with the animal psychologist Francine Patterson, who taught her sign language almost from birth. Photos The Gorilla Foundation

June 19, 2018 in the Californian zoo died gorilla Koko, known for her knowledge of sign language and high intelligence. Representatives of the non-profit organization The Gorilla Foundation reported about what happened two days later – according to them, a 46-year-old female of the western plain gorilla died in a dream.

Experiment result

The exceptional ability of Koko to express emotions and her vocabulary is considered the result of the research program of Stanford University, which was overseen by specialist Francine Patterson. She began to teach the gorilla American sign language in 1972, when Koko turned a year. According to the woman, the female learned more than 1000 gestures (according to other sources , up to 2,000 gestures), including the ability to show the middle finger as an insult.

In 1976, Patterson, along with biologists Ronald Cohn and Barbara Hiller (Barbara Hiller) founded the non-profit organization The Gorilla Foundation, whose goal was to educate and further train Koko. At the age of 19, the gorilla successfully passed a “mirror test”, which determines the ability of animals to recognize themselves in the mirror (most gorillas and other animals are unable to do so).

Record of friendship and friendship between Coco and Michael

In 1979, Coco began to live with the male Michael, who also showed the ability to learn the language of gestures. Koko taught him more than 600 words: they used the word “stench” together as “flowers” and “lip” as “girl.” In addition to studying the language, Michael liked to watch “Sesame Street” and listened to the opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. In 1990, to the gorillas, which experts called brother and sister, the male Ndume settled. He was positioned as a sexual partner for Coco, but the female never gave birth.

Caring for pets and criticism

The phenomenon of “smart” gorillas are often subjected to criticism from the scientific community, since most of the information about the success of the experiment was published in the media, rather than in scientific journals. Doubts were also raised by the press release of The Gorilla Foundation, which was released in response to the suicide of comedian and actor Robin Williams in 2014. The record said that with the whole world about the tragedy mourns and Coco, who supposedly remembered the Hollywood star from the time of their meeting.

Robin Williams gets to know Coco, 2001

Some critics have pointed out that Koko does not realize his actions, but repeats only what is required of her, in order to receive a reward. Patterson admitted that at the beginning of the training she also believed that the gorilla was unconsciously performing the actions to receive the reward, but rethought it after Koko began to come up with her own words. The ring became a “bracelet for the finger”, and the mask was called “eye cap.”

In addition to teaching new words, Koko loved to spend time with her pets. For the first time she gestured to scientists to give her a kitten in 1983 for Christmas, but when she was brought a scarecrow, she ignored him, as if hinting that she wants a real pet.

Koko plays with the kitten

In 1984, in honor of the birthday, Koko was allowed to choose a kitten from the orphanage herself: she took a gray mex breed and called the animal “All Balls” (All Ball). Koko took care of the pet as a child and played with him in between studies. When the cat accidentally ran out onto the road and was hit by a car, the female fell into a short-term depression. With gestures she repeated “bad, bad, bad” and “frown, cry, frown, sad.” In an interview, Patterson claimed that the gorilla made sounds that sounded like a human groan.

A year after the tragedy, the gorilla was allowed to choose two new kittens, which she called “Lipstick” and “Smoky.” As explained by the teachers of Coco, the first name she gave the kitten because of its pink nose, and the word “smoky” was associated with her with a cat from one of her illustrated books. Until her death, Coco courted, guarded and played with kittens, which, in fact, replaced her own cubs.

The reasons for Koko’s death were not disclosed, but her representatives said that the gorilla died peacefully. The future fate of the organization The Gorilla Foundation and the partner of the female Ndume is still unknown.