Environment

Koko The Gorilla Has A Message For Mankind

January 6, 2016 | by Ben Taub

Koko the gorilla allegedly knows over 1,100 different signs
Photo credit: Koko the gorilla allegedly knows over 1,100 different signs. YouTube/Noé ONG

The recent climate summit in Paris saw some of the most powerful humans on the planet deliver rousing speeches, although it’s the discourse of a famous member of another species that’s currently attracting attention, after Koko the gorilla made her feelings on climate change known using sign language.

Born in San Francisco Zoo in 1971, Koko began learning American Sign Language at the age of one, and, according to her trainers, was able to learn vocabulary at the same rate as a child with learning difficulties.

Over the past 45 years, she has become something of a global sensation, recently appearing in a video in which she adopts a pair of kittens, using sign language to identify them as cats and state that they are her babies.

Now, as part of a campaign by French organization Noe Conservation, Koko has been filmed delivering a message to the humans of the world, encouraging them to become more conscious of their responsibility to protect the planet. In the video, she appears to call mankind “stupid” for ignoring this responsibility, while also claiming that “Earth Koko love”

According to the Gorilla Foundation, Koko knows over 1,100 different signs, although many of these have been adapted in order to compensate for her inability to form the same complex hand shapes and movements as humans.

It must also be recognized that her ability to truly grasp the concepts about which she appears to "talk" in the video is questionable. For instance, her awareness of notions such as climate change and time unlikely to be strong. It has also not been verified by scientists not affiliated with the Gorilla Foundation whether or not she truly is able to grasp the syntax required to make complex statements, and how advanced her level of communication actually is. 

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