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A Conversation With Koko

NATURE's A CONVERSATION WITH KOKO explores inter-species communication by focusing on the groundbreaking work of The Gorilla Foundation, where one animal resident has been speaking in sign language for more than 25 years.

Koko the gorilla has been featured in THE NEW YORK TIMES, her face has graced the covers of prestigious magazines, three books have been written about her, and scientists hang on her every word. She even has had her life story told on TV -- playing herself, of course.

By the human way of reckoning, Koko is surely the world's most accomplished gorilla, having mastered more than 1,000 words in American sign language. In doing so, she has helped overturn age-old preconceptions about the limits of animal intelligence, expressing thoughts and emotions of astonishing sophistication.

At The Gorilla Foundation in mountainous Woodside, California, where Koko has lived most of her life with her equally expressive male gorilla companion, Michael, researchers are working to uncover and better understand primate capabilities that once were thought to be exclusively human.

"All primates express emotions, but because of her command of sign language, Koko can convey to us feelings that her wild counterparts cannot," explains Dr. Francine (Penny) Patterson, who heads the Gorilla Foundation and has been working with Koko and teaching her sign language since 1972.

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View the Production Credits.

A Friendship Blossoms
Read about a remarkable bond

A New Home
Koko may be moving to a new preserve

All Thumbs
All about Gorilla Sign Language

Learn to Sign With Koko
Play our game!

Koko's Scrapbook
Flip through an overview of Koko's life

Get more facts about Koko and other gorillas

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