|Koko: July 4, 1971 - June 19, 2018|
|Koko with caretaker Penny Patterson|
"I knew the two great apes when I was young and they were young," says Patterson, "and I've closely followed the scientific, philosophical and moral upheavals they precipitated over the last five decades. In the 1960 and "70s, they learned to use American sign language, and they came to understand that words could be combined to convey new meanings. It threw the scientific world into a tizzy, implying that sentience and language were not ours alone, that there was a continuum in higher mental abilities that linked animals and humans."
There are some scientific disbelievers but Patterson makes a strong case. And so do the many who have seen, interacted and conversed with Koko. First it was Washoe who noted a bird on the water and signed "bird" and "water." The schentific question was: Is Washoe simply noting bird and water separately or, not knowing the term, putting the two together to say water bird?
Not being a scientist, I vote for Washoe noting "water bird," and thus, cognitively, thinking like a human might. Then there was Koko who noted a ring on the finger of a visitor. Not knowing the word for ring, Koko signed "finger" and then "bracelet." Pretty good, huh?
This, from Wikipedia, was pretty convincing: