Ambassador Koko Speaks

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Photographer: Ron Cohn

Source: Gary Stanley

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Does Koko look ambassadorial or what with a beautiful scarf draped over her shoulder? The truth is that when Koko “speaks” (through American Sign Language) people do listen. Just ask her caregiver/researchers – they take down practically every word she signs in the “Project Koko Diary” which has been recording the “utterances” of Koko, Michael and Ndume for over 30 years.

The linguistic and behavioral analysis of the Project Koko Diary (and associated photos and videos) will keep researchers busy for years – trying to understand the differences and commonality among human and other great ape communication, its origins, how it develops as a function of environment, and what it means about cognition and consciousness. This will be especially illuminating when Koko gets to teach her offspring to communicate – will it be ASL, GSL (gorilla intrinsic sign/gestural language) or a combination of both?

PS: See the new Penny”s Team Journal (Caregivers Corner) for recent examples of conversations with Koko.