Friday, April 20, 2012

Koko and Gorilla Intelligence!

Gorillas are extremely intelligent creatures, and the Gorilla Language Project (also known as Project Koko) proves it. This project began in 1972, when Koko the Gorilla was only one year old. After being in the study for about 40 years, Koko has surpassed any other non-human in her ability to communicate with sign language. She has a vocabulary of approximately 1,000 signs and can about 2,000 words of English when she’s spoken to. Koko also initiates many of her conversations with humans, and even tested between a 70 and 95 on the IQ scale. Not only can she understand basic human conversation, but the study has consisted of “spontaneous gorilla language use including invention of new signs and compound words, simultaneous signing, reference to time and emotional states, metaphorical word use, humor, definition, argument, threat, fantasy play, storytelling and moral judgment” along with many other aspects of human behavior.

Intelligence is defined as the capacity of the mind to be aware of what is occurring around us, and not only acquiring knowledge, but also putting it into practice. By testing self-awareness by using a “mirror test,” then gorillas are self-aware because Koko could recognize herself. Gorillas also use tools to solve problems, and even in the wild, they have figured out how to use medicinal plants to help cure their sicknesses.

Koko is also emotionally intelligent, as you can see in this clip by clicking on the following link.  She played and cared for this little kitten, and even named him All Ball, because he reminded her of a ball. This shows the innate motherly side of her, but also the fact that she named the kitten shows her understanding of the human relationship between a mother and child, or even of a human and their pet. After All Ball tragically died, Koko responded like a human and grieved the loss of her kitten.




  1. Im impressed to see how much Koko was taught and was she memorized. How long can gorillas live for? There is a movie, called Baby's Day Out, and there is a scene when the baby crawls into a cage with a large silverback. Instead of attacking it, which is a wild animal's natural response--the silverback picked the baby up and fell asleep with him. When the bad guys in the movie tried to reach for the baby the silverback fought back and injured them.

  2. What an amazing video! That is such an incredible story of Koko caring for the kitten and treating him like her own child. I think the most amazing part is how Koko immediately understood when the woman told her that All Ball had died. I wonder if Koko is especially intelligent, or with enough training all gorillas could learn and comprehend that many words? Great post, thanks for the information!