Koko is Conscious and Knows She's a Prisoner, When she signs, "Koko Free Gorilla Animal", i Cry

Koko, Ron and Penny share a laugh

When Dr. Penny Patterson, a young graduate student in psychology at Stanford, first saw a tiny, undernourished baby gorilla named Hanabi-Ko at the San Francisco Zoo, she had little inkling that the sickly ape would become her constant companion - and the subject of the longest continuous experiment ever undertaken to teach language to another species. Penny Patterson has devoted her entire adult life to Koko and this project. The pictures on her fridge are of Koko and her former mate, Michael.

Penny hates the fact that humans hold animals as prisoners in zoos. So do i. Koko was born in a zoo, not captured in the wild like Micheal. Penny and other researchers believe Micheal's parents were both killed by poachers in Cameroon, and that Michael was able to tell them this by signing: “Squash meat gorilla. Mouth tooth. Cry sharp-noise loud. Cut/neck.” Like all of us Koko, Micheal, Kanzi and Washoe all used complex combinations of signs to communicate concepts they had never learned a sign for.

Koko, if you’re not familiar, was taught American sign language when she was about a year old. Now 40, she apparently has a working vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs and understands around 2,000 words of spoken English. Forty years on, the Gorilla Foundation’s Koko project has become the longest continuous inter-species communications programme of its kind anywhere in the world. Every cent raised by the Gorilla Foundation goes into upkeep. All other proceeds go to habitat restoration and wildlife education in native gorilla locales.

Koko describes herself as a ‘fine person gorilla’. Everyone who interacts with her acknowledges that Koko is conscious. Millions have read the award-winning classic 'Koko's Kitten' which recounts the real life experience of Koko, her love for a tailless tabby she named "All-Ball" and her grief when the kitten died. Koko still gets sad when she sees a picture of a tailless kitten.

Koko is only too aware of man’s occasionally horrific interactions with wild gorillas. Dr. Patterson recounts, “It happened by accident — someone sent a DVD about primates and I didn’t really look at it,” she says. “But it was playing and when I looked I saw Koko watching a graphic bushmeat scene. I hadn’t previewed it like I should have. The next day we were in with Koko and I was going through some mail. Koko picked up an insert from a newspaper and it was a supermarket ad. She held up a section full of pictures of meat and signed: “shame there”. Shame everywhere Koko.

Dr. Penny Paterson and Dr. Ron Cohn, Co-Founder of the Foundation and the numerous volunteers at the Gorilla Foundation are admirable people. Penny Patterson's love for Koko and every living thing is remarkable and they are helping wild gorillas to some extent even as their numbers drop as their habitat decreases. The foundation has produced many touching videos designed to be moving and to help them raise funds for the gorilla project. Here's a few recent videos:  Koko's 42nd birthday - A conversation with Koko - Koko's kitten visitors.

My daughter and i used to watch Koko videos when she was. younger but i had to stop watching them a many years back because they are all both moving and very sad. i used to have dreams about Koko, nightmares sorta.

Koko is conscious, she knows she's a prisoner. Koko is nice to the Penny and the others in part because she wants/needs companionship. Sometimes she gets mad at her situation and says with her sign language ,then starts  trying to destroy her enclosure in an attempt to escape.

Every seed is awakened and so is all animal life. It is through this mysterious power that we too have our being and we therefore yield to our animal neighbours the same right as ourselves, to inhabit this land." -Sitting Bull

All animals are conscious, every thing is our cousin. When Koko signs, "Koko Free Gorilla Animal", i cry.