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Koko: A Talking Gorilla

Documentary From 1978

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Now Will We Listen To Them?

"This is the only animal that has told us what she thinks" is how one of our subscribers put it, and that is exactly what makes this film, and this whole story, so spectacular.

You have probably heard of Koko over the years. Maybe you're seen a PBS special on the internationally famous gorilla or read an article about her.

This documentary from 1978 documents the efforts of Penny Patterson, a doctoral student at Stanford at the time the movie was released, as she works with Koko, a 6 year-old (at the time) gorilla who can communicate through American Sign Language.

It is still considered a controversial experiment in primate communication. There are those who dispute that Koko really understands the sign language and spoken English that she has been taught.

You can judge for yourself in this video and all the numerous footage of Koko on the web. To us, she clearly is communicating. And it's more than basic words for basic needs. She has found ways to use language to show her affection, sense of humor, playfulness, love: a whole range of emotions challenging us to acknowledge that we have underestimated the depth of feelings and intelligence of animals.

Share this video far and wide, because if we can understand that this one animal shares so much with us humans, then we can begin to turn around our civilization's legacy of limited beliefs and disrespect toward animals, and go toward the truth of our connection with them, starting with this closest of kin.

Quite simply a must see for anyone interested in animals and animal rights. This is a fascinating breakthrough in our ability to talk to them, and more importantly: listen to them.

--Bibi Farber

This film was directed by Barbet Schroeder