Koko is a gorilla who communicates with American Sign Language. Some details about the National Geographic special and the DVD about her have stayed with me.
Watching Koko cradling her kitten All Ball (who she named) really struck me with the tenderness these gentle creatures have. People often talk about their dogs being part of the family. Part of that is because they are pack animals with social interaction skills, but part of it is that on some level, the Buddhists have it right that all conscious beings share the same something.
I was surprised how much Koko wanted a baby. The interviewer asked how Penny knew that, and Penny said that Koko had told her.
Penny got some pictures of male gorillas available in zoos for Koko to meet (for potential breeding?) and arranged the pictures into a book that she and Koko would look through.
As they turned the pages, Koko looked with her attention completely focused on the pictures (isn't that some leap of consciousness to realize that a flat two-dimensional image represents not abstract colors but something of the real world, in this case another gorilla?).
So they looked at one gorilla after another. Penny paused at one likely candidate and asked Koko, "What about him?" Koko was not interested and answered she didn't like him. "He's stinky."
After another couple of pages, all of a sudden Koko got really excited and started pointing on the page. She said something about that being the one she wanted to meet.
I don't know if Koko had merely a desire for companionship or a natural attraction for a male gorilla and if she was conscious that this was the way she might get pregnant. If she understood that sex was the means of having a baby, or even if Penny explained it to her, the implications of understanding are enormous.
We are species-chauvinist. We think that we have some spark of divine consciousness even though it becomes clearer continually that we have the same biology and physiology patterns as all multi-cell beings seem to possess.
I once saw a documentary of a paramecium foraging and grazing when it was grabbed by a one-celled predator. It instantly struggled to pull away to free itself from the predator's grasp and swam away decisively after extricating itself.
Life struggles and seeks. It is a non-tangible force that helped early fins navigate over muddy ground from a drying out pond to another larger one.
Life is good.
website has a photo with this caption:
While Penny (Dr. Patterson) is away on travel, visiting family members, Koko is keenly aware of how long she will be gone and when she will return. In fact, when Penny called the Foundation the other day to say hello to Koko, Koko immediately pulled out the calendar to remind everyone when she was due back.
I always assumed only humans had the capacity to understand time, or at least the concept of the future.