Koko is a female lowland gorilla born in 1971. She has been taught American Sign Language and according to The Gorilla Foundation, who are responsible for Koko’s care:
“Koko has advanced further with language than any other non-human. Koko has a working vocabulary of over 1000 signs. Koko understands approximately 2,000 words of spoken English. Koko initiates the majority of conversations with her human companions and typically constructs statements averaging three to six words. Koko has a tested IQ of between 70 and 95 on a human scale, where 100 is considered “normal.”
They go on to say that “The depth and variety of gorilla language use has significantly exceeded initial expectations. Indeed, evidence has been found for the existence, in less developed form, of almost every aspect of human behavior.” For full information on Koko and her gorilla companions please go to The Gorilla Foundation.
It is thanks to studies such as this that the topic of animal consciousness is given consideration by the scientific community. Any animal lover and/or pet owner could tell you that animals are conscious, emotional and loving beings. They may not communicate in exactly the same way as we do and may have different priorities and worldviews but that does not make them less; it just makes them different.
The arrogance of us ‘humans’ seems to be that if a creature can’t vocalise in a language we can understand it’s then classified as not conscious or not worthy of the same respect and protection afforded to human beings. A world that still allows animal experimentation on any animal, and especially on primates is a world in deep trouble.
Check out the the videos below to get an overview on Koko and on some other examples of animals just being! And the first one is interesting as Koko points out that the flowers on the napkin are fake (as in pictures of flowers not real flowers) but her teachers misses that subtle difference!
Christian the Lion
Piano Playing Cat!