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Sad news: Koko, the 1st gorilla to learn ASL, dies at 46-YO

Discussion in 'Other Animals' started by leashedForLife, Jun 22, 2018.

  1. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    I don't know if anyone else recalls Koko & her amazing use of hand-gestures & letter signs, plus her own coined labels for novel items, but she followed in the steps, or perhaps the grasp, of a F chimp, who'd begun ASL B4 her.

    Koko, the Gorilla Who Used Sign Language, Is Dead at 46

    Koko began learning ASL in 1972, & became the longest-running research subject in nonhuman communication & language acquisition. She was somewhat lonely at night, as she slept alone once she became a "big girl", weaned & eating solids, & she wanted a pet - pointing to kittens in children's books.
    She adopted a stump-tailed grey-tabby shorthair [blue, in the cat-fancy] & named her kitty All-Ball, as without a long tail, the kitten looked rounded. Koko was devastated when All-Ball escaped, was hit by a car, and killed.



    She adopted & reared other kittens, over the years -



    At age 5, she was paired with a younger M, Michael, in the hope that they would eventually mate, but altho they spent 24 years together as dear companions, they never had a baby.
    Michael died unexpectedly, & both Koko & her new mate, Ndume, mourned his loss for a long time.

    Michael Memorial | koko.org

    Koko was an amazing individual, & a powerful ambassador for her embattled species in the wild. She will be sorely missed.
    - terry

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    arealhuman and merlina like this.
  2. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    I remember seeing her respond to the death of her kitten and wondering how anyone could continue to claim that apes are just animals. She taught humans so much.....now if only we listen ...
    RIP Koko
     
  3. Josie

    Josie Administrator Administrator Registered

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    I remember watching video's on her, what an amazing Gorilla. I ditto @Mad Murphy - it makes me sick people that poach these fantastic clever creatures.
     
  4. merlina

    merlina Well-Known Member Registered

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    Yes I remember her too. She was a wonderful, totally sentient creature. Sleep tight, lady.
     
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  5. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    Aww, she was one of my heroes. I first came across her at uni studying linguistics as part of psychology (that is, I was studying linguistics, though it could be argued that she did too;)).
     
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  6. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    I don't know if they'll autopsy [necropsy] Koko to determine cause of death; Michael died young & suddenly from completely unsuspected cardiac problems -- fibrosing cardiomyopathy, which stiffens bands of heart muscle, making it impossible to pump blood -- he showed no symptoms whatever, he just died abruptly. :(

    Gorillas in captivity, esp'ly Ms, often develop heart problems after 30-YO; some captive gorillas get pacemakers, like the silverback at the Birmingham Zoo. When the condition is caught early-enuf, a pacemaker can be a surgical cure.

    Success Beats in the Heart of a Captive Gorilla

    Viruses, dental bacteria, & other triggering causes are suspected, but nothing has been proven to be a cause... until recently.
    Gorillas, like HORSES, are hind-gut digesters. It turns out they need about 4X the weight of food they'd been getting in captivity, plus a massive increase in fiber.

    Something Mysterious Is Killing Captive Gorillas

    Now that more gorillas have been taught to voluntarily co-operate with cardiac ultrasounds & blood-draws for testing, the new diets are making a radical change. Hopefully it's in time - to save the aging adult-M popn in American zoos, & the adult gorillas in captivity, world-wide.
    Silverbacks are very important in captive troops, as they're the role models for the young Ms in their families, just as adult Fs are the role-models for young Fs. Caring for infants & defending their troop are both highly complex, learned, social behaviors.

    - terry

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  7. leashedForLife

    leashedForLife Well-Known Member Registered

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    the bad news?...

    QUOTE,
    "...you can’t reverse heart disease, so even if Mokolo’s condition doesn’t worsen, it’s hard to know whether it’s due to his medications, his diet, or both. Determining whether the Cleveland diet can actually prevent heart disease from taking hold requires an entire generation of young male gorillas to be raised on it, but so far, only three zoos besides Cleveland have adopted it - mostly because it’s about four times as expensive as a biscuit-based diet.

    Of the four, only the North Carolina Zoo has males who've been biscuit-free since they were weaned. Even if those two males grow up free of heart disease, they're such a small sample that it’ll be difficult to determine whether their [EDIT: better cardiac] health is due to their [improved] diet & [altered] microbiomes, or simply good genes."

    _____________________________
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    It's already very, very expensive to keep gorillas - or for that matter, any nonhuman primates - in captivity, with sufficient space, proper "furniture", social contact, enrichment, etc. Quadrupling the cost of feeding them is a whopper.

    - terry

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