Koko, the Western Lowland Gorilla who is able to understand more than 1,000 signs based on American Sign Language and 2,000 words of spoken English, has met some celebrities over the years. In 1988, William Shatner had a memorable visit with Koko, as seen in part in this edited clip, and re-told on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in 2009. Mister Rogers visited in 1998 (YouTube clip), as part of series of shows addressing children's fears of meeting someone new or unusual. In 2004, Koko met Betty White and Robin Williams. (Koko and other non-human primates using and learning sign language previously)
In the late Sixties and early Seventies several experiments were begun to test whether or not a non-human primate could construct a sentence. Several species were involved in these various experiments including the chimpanzees Washoe and Nim, a gorilla named Koko, and later in the Eighties work began with a bonobo named Kanzi. While great progress was made in teaching these primates a vocabulary, it would be difficult to see any of these experiments as a success. And all of these projects raised important questions about the ethics of such experiments. [more inside]
The First Interspecies Online Chat. An Internet chat with Koko the Gorilla. Some fascinating discourse with the world's most famous primate..... Question: Do you like to chat with other people? LiveKOKO: fine nipple
Using hands to communicate is not a new phenomon. American Sign Language (ASL) was formally introduced in 1817 by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet as a way for deaf people to communicate. Here's a wonderful browser that allows you to see how letters and words are signed (quicktime use). (Here's a way to tell your favorite Mefi trolll that you appreciate his/her kind words.) Oh, and let's not forget Koko, America's Gorilla Sign Language (GSL) sweetheart.
If you're going to work with Koko the Gorilla, the famous talking ape, you've got to know more than sign language. Allegedly, Dr. Penny Patterson insists you've also gotta show your boobs... who knew?
Cultured Apes: According to a study published in today's issue of the journal Science, orangutans have been passing on a shared culture for generations (free registration required to view entire study). To what degree are animals intelligent? Are primates more intelligent than other animals? What about crows and ravens? (My favorite subject of animal intelligence studies is still Koko the gorilla.)