It sounds like the beginning of a joke, “what do you get a 400lb gorilla for her birthday?” but it isn’t a joke. The gorilla’s name is Koko. She was born in San Francisco Zoo, and as you’ll see, she’s a very special gorilla indeed.
She was raised by Stanford University’s Francine “Penny” Patterson and formed the kind of bond with her that lasts a lifetime. She also learned something of what it was like to be human and that means celebrating birthdays.
You won’t believe what Koko got for her birthday, but it might just bring a tear of joy to your eyes.
12. Learning the Language
Penny moved to be with Koko and worked with Dr. Ronald Cohn, a well-known zoologist, to try and do something that no-one had ever done before. They wanted to know if Koko could learn some form of sign language to communicate with them and the results were surprising.
11. Serious Vocabulary
Koko was not a slow learner. She quickly began to pick up sign language as Penny and Dr. Kohn brought her books and other learning aids. She can now recognize and respond to more than 2,000 words of English and has learned over 1,000 signs to talk back to people.
10. With Words Came Fame
Koko’s astonishing ability to communicate with people brought her fame around the world. Celebrities often visited Koko and they bonded with her in real life. Robin Williams, who recently passed away, had met and become friends with Koko and she was sad to hear the news of his death.
9. The Queen of Her World
Koko has been made aware that she’s special through the constant stream of visitors that come to see her. She knows that she’s more than just another creature living in a zoo and uses the sign for “queen” when she talks about herself to her teachers and friends.