Koko the talking gorilla

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Two of the films that I really enjoyed watching in my youth were Dr. Dolittle and Planet of the Apes. The first one featured Dr. Dolittle a man who possessed a unique skill in that he was able to ‘talk to the animals’.

This musical contained a song in it which talked about all the different animal languages that it might be possible to be able to speak. Planet of the Apes was on the other hand a very bleak film, which was set in a future in which the apes were more advanced than the humans having among other things the power of speech. I remember wondering at the time how on earth this could ever happen.

On Sunday afternoon at a quarter past four on BBC1 there is a documentary about a gorilla called Koko whom her owner believes is able to really communicate with her.

Forty four years ago Penny Patterson started Project Koko to gain a PhD.

Her aim was to teach sign language to a baby gorilla.

However the Project did not end after a few years. Penny stopped Koko from being taken back to the zoo and has in the years that followed continued to work with her.

This documentary tells her amazing story using footage captured down through the years. Penny has had disputes with various members of the scientific community who believe that she is reading too much into Koko’s behaviour.

It seems as if Penny now regards Koko almost as a daughter.

It is up to the viewers of the programme to judge for themselves whether the work that Penny has done over the years proves that in time better communication between human beings and at least some animals might be possible.

Ian K