Caregiver Corner: ‘Koko’s New Friend’ by Tierra Wilson

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The composition of Koko’s team of caregivers and volunteers changes from time to time. Each transition is different and Koko tends to have very definite opinions about individuals in her environment. Koko often seems eager to be part of the interviewing process and sometimes can get frustrated when new people are not brought to meet her as soon as she is aware of their arrival. Koko took a great interest in our new Director of Conservation and Care, Chris Mitchell, when he was here for a site visit earlier this year. In Koko’s responses, the pound symbol (#) after a word indicates that it is a vocalization by Koko; otherwise the word or phrase represents her response in American Sign Language. The kiss# vocalization is commonly used to get someon’s attention. Koko’s New Friend, by Tierra Wilson April 6, 2005 I am visiting with Koko in her kitchen.   TW: Would you like your visit with Chris?   Koko: Koko-love.   TW: Oh, that’s nice sweetie. You love Chris?   Koko: Good. (Koko often signs good to mean yes.)   TW: Should I have him visit you at your porch?   Koko: Good. I page Penny to see if they are finished with their meeting. They are not quite done yet.   TW: They are going to be a few minutes sweetie.   Koko: Drapes. Koko likes to have her drapes opened when she is waiting for someone so she can watch them walk up the path. I go out to Koko’s porch and open the drapes.   Koko: Lower-faketooth. (Koko uses this to refer to her human friends, usually the small circle of caregivers who work in her immediate vicinity.)   TW: They are going to be a few minutes; they are having a meeting about the gorillas in Africa.   Koko: Blowkiss. Purr#.   TW: : I know he can’t wait to see you; they just have to finish their meeting. Koko waits patiently at her porch.   Koko: Upper-faketooth.   TW: They will be down as soon as they are done.   Koko: Drapes shame.   TW: Oh sweetie, sometimes waiting makes things even more exciting. Later that afternoon, Koko visited with Chris and gave an overwhelming purr of approval. She agreed that he was the perfect person to help with her mission of conservation in Africa. We are all now anxiously awaiting his arrival from the UK.