How 'bout a Gorilla that uses sign language and has pets for an endearing story? Koko is a female gorilla born in 1971. She resided at the San Francisco Zoo for 19 years where scientist Francine Patterson taught her over 1000 'American Sign Language' signs. Patterson has documented Koko's comprehension of these signs, yet controversy still reigns. Others contend that Koko's comprehension of said signs (and also of the 2000 spoken words) used to communicate with her, can not be quantified. These researchers maintain that Koko is responding only to the treat rewards she receives when a sign is deemed appropriate by Patterson.
Never taught the sign for "ring," however, Koko was given the ring she saw when she signed, "finger bracelet." Patterson stated that Koko has invented hundreds of configurations to express herself using the signs she knows. When asked what she would like for a birthday gift, Koko signed, "cat." Upon receiving a Manx (tailless breed) kitten, Koko's signs of, "all ball' became this kitten's name. Nurturing All Ball much like a baby Gorilla, Koko was said to be,"always gentle, playful and doting."
All Ball was allowed to leave Koko's enclosure at will, however she spent approximately 22 hours daily with her Koko. Then came the day when All Ball was killed by a compound vehicle. Koko was told, and signed, "Bad, sad, bad.' Hesitating for a moment, she then signed, Frown, cry, frown, sad." Currently in retirement at a sanctuary in Maui, Hawaii, Koko continues to communicate with her keepers using taught signs and free form signs. She speaks often of All Ball.
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