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Hanabiko "Koko" (July 4, 1971 – June 19, 2018) was a female western lowland gorilla known for having learned a large number of hand signs from a modified version of American Sign Language (ASL). Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo and lived most of her life in Woodside, California,[2] at The Gorilla Foundation's preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains.[3] The name "Hanabiko" (花火子), lit. 'fireworks child', is of Japanese origin and is a reference to her date of birth, the Fourth of July. Koko gained public attention upon a report of her having adopted a kitten as a pet and creating a name for him.

Koko
Koko the gorilla.jpg
Koko in December 2015
Species Western lowland gorilla
Sex Female
Born (1971-07-04)July 4, 1971[1]
San Francisco Zoo, U.S.
Died June 19, 2018(2018-06-19) (aged 46)
Woodside, California, U.S.
Known for
  • Use of sign language
  • Pet keeping
www.koko.org

Her instructor and caregiver, Francine Patterson, reported that Koko was able to understand more than 1,000 signs of what Patterson calls "Gorilla Sign Language" (GSL).[4] In contrast to other experiments attempting to teach sign language to non-human primates, Patterson simultaneously exposed Koko to spoken English from an early age. It was reported that Koko understood approximately 2,000 words of spoken English, in addition to the signs.[5] Koko's life and learning process has been described by Patterson and various collaborators in a number of books, peer-reviewed scientific articles, and on a website.[6]

As with other great-ape language experiments, the extent to which Koko mastered and demonstrated language through the use of these signs is disputed.[7][8] It is generally accepted that she did not use syntax or grammar, and that her use of language did not exceed that of a young human child.[9][10][11][12][13] However, she scored between 70 and 90 on various IQ scales, and some experts, including Mary Lee Jensvold, claim that "Koko...[used] language the same way people do".[14][15][16]

Contents

LifeEdit

Early lifeEdit

Koko was born to her mother, Jacqueline and father, Bwana on July 4, 1971, at the San Francisco Zoo. Koko was the 50th gorilla born in captivity and one of the first gorillas accepted by her mother in captivity. Koko remained with her mother until the age of one when she was taken to the zoo's hospital to be treated for a life-threatening illness.

Patterson originally cared for Koko at the San Francisco Zoo as part of her doctoral research after Koko developed a life-threatening illness. Koko was loaned to Patterson and subsequently remained with her, supported by The Gorilla Foundation.[17]

In Woodside CaliforniaEdit

After Patterson's research with Koko was completed at Stanford University the gorilla moved to a preserve in Woodside, California. At the preserve, Koko lived with another gorilla, Michael, who also learned sign language, but he died in 2000. She lived with a male gorilla, Ndume,[18] until her death.

At the preserve, Koko met and interacted with a variety of celebrities including Robin Williams, Fred Rogers, Betty White, William Shatner, Flea, Leonardo DiCaprio, Peter Gabriel, and Sting.[19]

Koko's weight of 280 pounds (127 kg) was higher than would be normal for a gorilla in the wild, where the average weight is approximately 150–200 pounds (70–90 kg), but the foundation stated that Koko "is, like her mother, a larger frame Gorilla".

Koko was reported to have a preoccupation with both male and female human nipples, with several people saying that Koko requested to see their nipples. In 2005, three staff at The Gorilla Foundation, where Koko resided, filed lawsuits against the organization, alleging that they were pressured to reveal their nipples to Koko by the organization's executive director, among other violations of labor law. The lawsuits were settled out of court. Gorilla expert Kristen Lukas has said that other gorillas are not known to have had a similar nipple fixation.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26]

DeathEdit

Koko died in her sleep during the morning of June 19, 2018, at the Gorilla Foundation's preserve in Woodside, California, at the age of 46.[27][28] The Gorilla Foundation released a statement that "[h]er impact has been profound and what she has taught us about emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world."[27][29] Even though Koko was 46 years old when she died, which is past the average life expectancy of a gorilla, her death was unexpected amongst staff members of the Gorilla Foundation.[30]

Use of languageEdit

Patterson reported that Koko's use of signs indicate that she mastered the use of sign language.[4] Koko's training began at the age of 1, and according to Patterson, she was able to use more than 1,000 signs, including giving people the finger.[31]

Patterson reported that Koko made several complex uses of signs that suggested a more developed degree of cognition than is usually attributed to non-human primates and their use of communication. For example, Koko was reported to use displacement (the ability to communicate about objects not currently present).[32] At age 19, Koko was able to pass the mirror test of self-recognition, which most other gorillas fail.[33][34] She had been reported to relay personal memories.[35] Koko was reported to use meta-language, being able to use language reflexively to speak about language itself, signing "good sign" to another gorilla who successfully used signing.[36] Koko was reported to use language deceptively, and to use counterfactual statements for humorous effects, suggesting an underlying theory of other minds.[37]

Patterson reported that she documented Koko inventing new signs to communicate novel thoughts. For example, she said that nobody taught Koko the word for "ring", but to refer to it, Koko combined the words "finger" and "bracelet", hence "finger-bracelet".[38]

Criticism from some scientists centered on the fact that while publications often appeared in the popular press about Koko, scientific publications with substantial data were fewer in number.[39][40][41] Other researchers argued that Koko did not understand the meaning behind what she was doing and learned to complete the signs simply because the researchers rewarded her for doing so (indicating that her actions were the product of operant conditioning).[42][43] Another concern that has been raised about Koko's ability to express coherent thoughts through signs is that interpretation of the gorilla's conversation was left to the handler, who may have seen improbable concatenations of signs as meaningful. For example, when Koko signed "sad" there was no way to tell whether she meant it with the connotation of "How sad." Following Patterson's initial publications in 1978, a series of critical evaluations of her reports of signing behavior in great apes argued that video evidence suggested that Koko was simply being prompted by her trainers' unconscious cues to display specific signs, in what is commonly called the Clever Hans effect.[44][45][46][47][37][48]

A bonobo named Kanzi, who had learned to communicate using a keyboard with lexigrams, picked up some sign language from watching videos of Koko; Kanzi's researcher, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, did not realize he had done so until Kanzi began signing to anthropologist Dawn Prince-Hughes, who had previously worked closely with gorillas.[49]

IntelligenceEdit

Between 1972 and 1977, Koko was administered several infant IQ tests, including the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale and form B of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. She achieved scores in the 70–90 range, which is comparable to a human infant that is slow but not intellectually impaired.[15] According to Francine Patterson, however, it is specious to compare her IQ directly with that of a human infant because gorillas develop locomotor abilities earlier than humans and many IQ tests for infants require mostly motor responses. Gorillas and humans also mature at different rates, so using a gorilla's chronological age to compute their IQ results in a score that is not very useful for comparative purposes.[15]

PetsEdit

Researchers at The Gorilla Foundation said that Koko asked for a cat for Christmas in 1983. Ron Cohn, a biologist with the foundation, explained to the Los Angeles Times that when she was given a lifelike stuffed animal, she was less than satisfied. She did not play with it and continued to sign "sad". So on her birthday in July 1984, she was able to choose a kitten from a litter of abandoned kittens. Koko selected a gray male Manx and named him "All Ball". Penny Patterson, who had custody of Koko and who had organized The Gorilla Foundation, wrote that Koko cared for the kitten as if it were a baby gorilla. Researchers said that she tried to nurse All Ball and was very gentle and loving. They believed that Koko's nurturing of the kitten and the skills she gained through playing with dolls would be helpful in Koko's learning how to nurture an offspring.[50][51]

In December 1984, All Ball escaped from Koko's cage and was hit and killed by a car. Later, Patterson said that when she signed to Koko that All Ball had been killed, Koko signed "Bad, sad, bad" and "Frown, cry, frown, sad". Patterson also reported later hearing Koko making a sound similar to human weeping.[51]

In 1985, Koko was allowed to pick out two new kittens from a litter to be her companions. The animals she chose, she named "Lipstick" and "Smoky", were also Manxes.[52] Koko picked the name after seeing the tiny orange Manx for the first time. When her trainer asked the meaning of the name, Koko answered, Lips lipstick.

To celebrate her birthday in July 2015, Koko was presented another litter of kittens. Picking two, she named them Miss Black and Miss Grey.[53]

MediaEdit

Koko and Patterson's work with her have been the subject of several books and documentaries.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Koko's Birthdays". The Gorilla Foundation. Archived from the original on July 15, 2018. Retrieved July 14, 2018. 
  2. ^ "CHECK IT OUT: Gorilla project under redesign". The Maui News. 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  3. ^ Borenstein, Seth; Har, Janie (June 21, 2018). "Koko the gorilla used smarts, empathy to help change views". AP News. San Francisco; Washington: Associated Press. Archived from the original on July 15, 2018. Retrieved July 14, 2018. The Gorilla Foundation said the 280-pound (127-kilogram) western lowland gorilla died in her sleep at the foundation’s preserve in California’s Santa Cruz mountains Tuesday. 
  4. ^ a b Fischer, Steven R. (1999). A History of Language. Reaktion Books. pp. 26–28. ISBN 1-86189-080-X. 
  5. ^ Wise, Steven M. (2003). Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights. Basic Books. p. 216. ISBN 0-7382-0810-8. 
  6. ^ "Scientific Publications". The Gorilla Foundation. Retrieved 2018-06-22. 
  7. ^ Ward, B. (1999). Koko: Fact or Fiction?. American Language Review, 3(3), 12-15.
  8. ^ Hu, Jane C. (August 20, 2014). "What Do Talking Apes Really Tell Us?". Health & Science (Science). Slate. The Slate Group. eISSN 1091-2339. ISSN 1090-6584. Archived from the original on July 15, 2018. Retrieved July 14, 2018. 
  9. ^ Michael W. Eysenck, 2000, Psychology: A Student's Handbook Taylor & Francis, p. 247
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  12. ^ Gisela Håkansson, Jennie Westander. 2013. Communication in Humans and Other Animals. John Benjamins Publishing, p. 131
  13. ^ Joel Wallman. 1992. Aping Language. Cambridge University Press, p. 20
  14. ^ Jensvold, Mary Lee (June 22, 2018). "What it's like to be interviewed for a job by Koko the gorilla: 'She had a lot to say'". Science (Science Now). Los Angeles Times (Interview). Interviewed by Deborah Netburn. Ross Levinsohn. eISSN 2165-1736. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 15, 2018. [NETBURN:] Did Koko use language like humans do? [JENSVOLD:] Koko and the other signing apes absolutely use language the same way people do. She was commenting on the world around her and signing about her activities, her day and her thoughts. I liken it to talking to a child—not because she wasn't mature, but because she was in a dependent relationship. The conversation you would have with her is like the conversation you would have with a child or an elderly person in your care. 
  15. ^ a b c "THE EDUCATION OF KOKO" (PDF). Koko.org. Retrieved 2018-06-23. 
  16. ^ "Speech sound discrimination ability in a Lowland gorilla". San Jose State University. Retrieved 2018-06-23. 
  17. ^ "Hanabiko ('Koko') the Gorilla at SF Zoo". KRON4. Retrieved 2018-07-28. 
  18. ^ Hillix, William Allen; Rumbaugh, Duane M. (January 2004). "Koko Fine Sign Gorilla". In Tuttle, Russell Howard. Animal Bodies, Human Minds: Ape, Dolphin, and Parrot Language Skills (Print). Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. New York: Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 99–111. doi:10.1007/978-1-4757-4512-2. ISBN 978-1-4419-3400-0. LCCN 2003051306. OCLC 968642386. 
  19. ^ Bender, Kelli (June 21, 2018). "Robin Williams, Mister Rodgers, Leonardo DiCaprio and 5 More of Koko the Gorilla's Famous Fans". Pets (Zoo Animals). People. ISSN 0093-7673. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018. 
  20. ^ Weiner, Jody (July 2005). "Hot Koko". California Lawyer. p. 80. Retrieved 16 August 2018. 
  21. ^ Weiner, Jody (2006). "Hot Koko & the Fetching Cat". In Solisti, Kate; Tobias, Michael. Kinship with Animals. San Francisco/Tulsa: Council Oak. pp. 182–188. 
  22. ^ Yollin, Patricia (18 February 2005). "Gorilla Foundation rocked by breast display lawsuit / Former employees say they were told to expose chests". San Fransisco Chronicle. Hearst. Retrieved 16 August 2018. 
  23. ^ "'Gorilla breast fetish' women sue". BBC News. 20 February 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2018. 
  24. ^ Yollin, Patricia (26 February 2005). "Ex-worker is third to sue over gorilla / Woman says she had to show her breasts to Koko". San Fransisco Chronicle. Hearst. Retrieved 16 August 2018. 
  25. ^ Agence France-Presse (21 February 2005). "Gorilla with a nipple fetish". The Age. Retrieved 16 August 2018. 
  26. ^ D., Shayla (15 October 2015). "Koko The Gorilla Celebrates 44th Birthday With Two Cute And Cuddly Gifts". The Inquisitr. Retrieved 16 August 2018. 
  27. ^ a b "The Gorilla Foundation is sad to announce the passing of our beloved Koko" (Press release). The Gorilla Foundation. June 20, 2018. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018. Following the article, the book Koko's Kitten was published and continues to be used in elementary schools worldwide. Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world. 
  28. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (June 21, 2018). "Koko the Gorilla, Who Used Sign Language and Befriended Mr. Rogers, Dies at 46". U.S. New York Times. Arthur Gregg Sulzberger. eISSN 1553-8095. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2018. 
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  50. ^ Hannaford, A. (October 7, 2011, October 7). "Talking to Koko the gorilla". The Week. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  51. ^ a b McGraw, C. (1985, January 10). "Gorilla's Pets: Koko Mourns Kitten's Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  52. ^ AP (August 15, 1985). "Koko the gorilla ape over her new kittens". Associated Press. Retrieved 10 February 2013. Koko picked the name after seeing the tiny orange Manx for the first time. When her trainer asked the meaning of the name, Koko answered, Lips lipstick. Patterson was confused until she realized that Lips had a pink nose and mouth, unlike All Ball's gray markings. Koko picked Smoky's name because the kitten looked like a cat in one of the gorilla's books, she said Wednesday. 
  53. ^ "Koko's New Kittens". www.koko.org. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
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Further readingEdit

  • Patterson, F. G. P.; M. L. Matevia (2001). "Twenty-seven Years of Project Koko and Michael". In Biruté M.F. Galdikas; Nancy Erickson Briggs; Lori K. Sheeran; Gary L. Shapiro; Jane Goodall. All Apes Great and Small: African Apes. Springer. pp. 165–176. ISBN 0-306-46757-7. 
  • Patterson, Dr. Francine (1987). Koko's Kitten. Scholastic, Inc. ISBN 0-590-44425-5
  • Patterson, Francine and Wendy Gordon (1993) "The case for the personhood of gorillas" In: P Cavalieri and P Singer (Eds) The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity, St. Martin's Press, pp. 58–77. ISBN 9780312118181.
  • Vessels, Jane (January 1985). "Koko's Kitten". National Geographic. Vol. 167 no. 1. pp. 110–113. ISSN 0027-9358. OCLC 643483454. 
  • Weiner, Jody (2005) "Hot Koko". California Lawyer. p. 80.
  • Weiner, Jody. "Hot Koko & the Fetching Cat". Kinship with Animals. Updated Edition Ed. Kate Solisti and Michael Tobias. San Francisco/Tulsa: Council Oak, 2006. 182-88. ISBN 978-1571781895

External linksEdit