Saturday, October 8, 2011

An audience with Koko

Could the best advocate for gorilla conservation be a gorilla? Maybe, if your gorilla can communicate and had an adorable pet kitten.

Koko, who has been taught American sign language and has a vocabulary of over 1,000 words is now 40. There's an article in the Daily Telegraph all about Koko which makes a very thought provoking read. Sadly Koko's kitten was killed and she showed no interest in other kittens. What she wants now is a baby.

Attempts to educate communities where poaching is rife about gorilla conservation has, evidently, largely failed; statistics about dwindling numbers of great apes just don’t resonate with people who can make good money from gorilla meat or body parts, or for those for whom the logging industry puts dinner on the table. But some conservationists believe stories like Koko’s – of how an “inculturated’ gorilla (the word researchers use for primates that have essentially had their own culture suppressed and adopted a more human-like culture) has actually communicated with us and demonstrated her intelligence – could be the answer. We should attempt, in other words, to win hearts, rather than minds. 

and later on:

As for Koko, Dr Patterson insists she is only too aware of man’s occasionally horrific interactions with wild gorillas. “It happened by accident – someone sent a DVD about primates and I didn’t really look at it,” she says. “But it was playing and when I looked I saw Koko watching a graphic bushmeat scene. I hadn’t previewed it like I should have. The next day we were in with Koko and I was going through some mail. Koko picked up an insert from a newspaper and it was a supermarket ad. She held up a section full of pictures of meat and signed: “shame there”.


Tanda Schmidt said...

It seems that sometimes humans forget that there are other organisms as intelligent as we are. We just need to listen, because clearly, they have something to say.

Minh Tran said...

To witness another specie pointing out our flaws, is truly remarkable. Maybe instead of building more McDonalds, we should invest in developing technology that enables us to communicate with other species.