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About Our Friend Koko
Koko is a female lowland gorilla born in 1971. Michael, a male lowland gorilla born in 1973 was Koko's best friend. They both used sign language and understood spoken English. Koko began studying sign language at the age of 1 and Michael at the age of 3 1/2. Before project Koko, very little was known about gorillas intelligence. Dr. Penny Patterson, began working with Koko as a Ph.D. project at Stanford, thinking it would only be a 4-year study. Thirty-some years later, Penny and Koko continue to work together at the Gorilla Foundation in one of the longest interspecies communication studies ever conducted, the only one with gorillas. During the course of the study, Koko advanced further with language than any other non-human. Koko has a working vocabulary of over 1,000 signs. She understands approximately 2,000 words spoken in English. Koko has a tested IQ of between 70 and 95 on a human scale.
Koko has proven the stereotyped
image of gorillas as blood-thirsty, destructive monsters was totally false.
Koko and other animals have possessed human qualities over the time of the project.
is famous not only for her language capabilities, but also her
heart-warming relationship with kittens. As Penny said, "She's just as much a
person as we are." Koko's desire is to have a baby. She indicated that she
would teach her children sign language, and that will become the next generation
of interspecies of communication.