Koko is a gorilla who has lived among humans from an early age and is famous for his love for kittens.
But it also does things that seem normal to humans who live with it and see it every day, although observed by a person from outside the environment, they give a lot to think about.
Koko loves to play the flute and she does it by imitation and without being forced to do so, simply for the pleasure it brings her. Of his own free will, he picks up the instrument, brings it to his lips and purses them precisely to emit sounds, in addition to maintaining control over the flow of air, a very unusual behavior in these apes.
He also "coughs" by simulation and for this he must make a contraction of the larynx, a movement that was considered impossible in gorillas, according to the studies that had been carried out so far.
In fact, in the 1930s and 1940s, several experiments were carried out to teach these great apes to speak.
The little ones were raised in a human environment and tried to make them understand the way in which men make certain sounds, and then form words with them.
After years of vain results, it was ruled that gorillas were unable to speak and that communicating with them was going to be impossible, at least in the way we do with each other, through the use of complex language.
Faced with evidence of Koko's unusual behavior, who has never been forced to learn, scientists rethink the situation and wonder if it was possible for apes to learn our way of communicating much earlier than they did. we could imagine.
For saving life
In the reserve of the Dian Fossey Foundation (the scientist on whose life the film "Gorillas in the Mist" is based), in the mountains of Rwanda, very particular behaviors have been observed among the adolescent gorillas that live there.
In the vicinity of their sanctuary, poachers often set traps with the intention of hunting small animals such as antelopes or gazelles, but unfortunately gorillas can also get trapped and that represents in most cases, a death sentence for them.
For this reason, one of the tasks of the members of the aforementioned foundation is to search for said traps and dismantle them, in order to preserve the safety of the mountain gorilla that is in "critical" danger of extinction.
Recently in one of these raids, it was possible to photograph a young female who arrived before the humans and in the blink of an eye dismantled a trap, and then repeated the "feat" with another that humans had not even seen.
Both the fact of verifying the skill and speed with which they proceeded to disarm the traps, as well as the fact of finding one that had gone unnoticed by scientists, has given the guideline that this behavior could be considered "common" among these wild apes.
Better well cooked
Chimpanzees are considered very gluttonous; they are able to quickly devour the food offered, sometimes having finished eating moments before. Therefore, cooking food was an unthinkable behavior, because it requires planning and waiting.
In a reserve of wild chimpanzees, the following experiment was carried out: first, sweet potatoes were offered to the apes, then they were shown how they were cooked and given a choice between raw and cooked and they chose the latter.
Later, they were allowed access to the cooking source and they put the sweet potatoes to cook, waited until they were done and then ate them.
They also knew how to decide that a piece of wood was not made "edible" by the effect of fire and they discarded it.
To check if they were able to plan the cooking of their food, they placed the sweet potatoes far away from the heat source and verified that the chimpanzees “collected” the sweet potatoes and brought them to cook, waited as long as necessary and then devoured them with relish.
It gives food for thought ... Although Koko's activities are due to coexistence imitation, this is conscious and not forced, which leads us to think that gorillas have much less “limitations” than previously thought.
The behavior in freedom dismounting traps, induces us to reflect on the so-called "intelligence" of animals. The experiments carried out with chimpanzees and food point in the same direction.
Much water has passed under the bridge after Ivan Pavlov's "conditioned reflex" experiment, so it is no longer easy to be so blunt when humans proclaim ourselves as the only beings with the capacity to learn and improve skills of the planet.