Koko Signs About Animals in a Book (KokoArc 1990)

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Photographer: Ron Cohn

Videographer: Ron Cohn

Source: Video 426

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In the this video clip, we share another preview of our new Koko Digital Archive project (KokoArc) based on nearly 5 decades of Project Koko research and care with gorillas Koko, Michael and Ndume. This one features Koko as a young adult using sign language to describe what she sees in a book about animals to Gorilla Foundation co-founders Drs Penny Patterson and Ron Cohn.

Koko liked to look at books and would frequently sign about what she saw. In this clip she is looking at a book with drawings of various animals, including dogs cats and a frog with mouth wide open. Koko signs to Ron and Penny “flower there” and “dog there” when she encounters them in the book.

She also signs “help” on the picture of the dog indicating why she called the dog “good.” She then signs “bite there” to the frog and puts the book in her mouth. Koko signs “bite” with both hands as she is biting the book. Koko is demonstrating proportionately how “big” the frog’s open mouth is.

Sign summary and time codes within above video:

00:07 Flower there

00:11 Flower there, red

00:33 Dog there

00:39 Dog good there (in response to Ron’s question)

00:43 Help (on the picture of the dog)

00:51 Bite there bite (to frog with wide open mouth)

00:57 Bite (modified by using both hands while biting the book)

00:59 Bite bite there

01:07 Bite there

01:11 Bite there

The above is just a summary of some of the data that will be incorporated in a detailed analysis of all videos (thousands of hours) across 5 decades, to indicate the breadth and depth of gorilla signing as well as their general communication and cognitive abilities.

This video clip shows 1 minute and 15 seconds from an unedited 2-hour video (Video 426 in our KokoArc database) filmed in 1990, when Koko was 19 years old. The video was filmed by Dr. Ron Cohn, Gorilla Foundation co-founder and Chief Documentarian. Thanks for joining us on our journey into the heart and soul of Koko’s Legacy. We have much to learn and share together, and much to apply for the benefit of great apes.

 Only by increasing our understanding of gorillas can we motivate improved conditions for them in captivity and establish the empathy needed to protect them from extinction in Africa.