Koko Turns 44!

Posted on October 16, 2015 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Sometimes we just need a little reminder from our childhood to remember that it’s still an amazing world!

Image: KoKo the gorilla with a kitten

For some, this reminder comes in the form of a beloved Disney movie, cartoon superhero, or fluffy Muppet, but for me, it has long been the story of Koko the Gorilla.

For those who didn’t see it on Facebook or floating around the internet, yesterday was Koko’s 44th birthday.

If you don’t know or remember Koko: she is a female lowland gorilla who became famous in 1999 for starring in a PBS documentary made about her remarkable use of American Sign language. With the guidance of her trainer, Penny Patterson, she has mastered the use of more than 2000 words and has cleverly made up her own signs for compound words to expand her connection with her human friends. With this form of language, she has conveyed her emotions and other abstract thoughts.

As a child, I somehow (probably by whining during a PBS pledge drive) convinced my parents to purchase the PBS documentary A Conversation With Koko, and it was my favorite movie–yes, I thought documentaries were movies. I played it until the VHS started to fade.

Yesterday, on Koko’s birthday, I watched it again and found myself transported back to a childhood where it made sense that animals could learn to communicate. That they had feelings and thoughts. That they loved and could form bonds with other animals.

For those that have never seen it, here is a brief trailer for this exquisite documentary…

Via: kokoflix 1

Here’s the backstory!…

Via: kokoflix 2


Though I am sitting at a desk now, and not an animal rehabber or researcher like I wanted to be when I was a child, Koko’s story has continued to inspire me. I hope that we can share this documentary, and others like it, with children who are still dreaming and believing anything is possible in the hopes that they too become inspired to think about their place in the wider world.

Without creatures like Koko, we can all too easily forget about the richness of life on this planet!

Here’s a remarkable video to remind us of possibility through the eyes of Robin Williams and Koko…

Via: kokoflix 3

Now take a look at part of Koko’s remarkable emotional life:

Via: kokoflix 4

You can visit Koko and help The Gorilla Foundation at Gorilla.org, there is so much there to inspire possibility at any age. Want to see a few more of their extraordinary videos and learn about Koko’s life? Check out their KokoFlix Blog.

For more articles like this, check out our Circle called “Talk with the Animals.”  Here at everwideningcircles.com, we’ve created a new navigation option where you can follow a train of thought through articles that have a thread of commonality. It’s great fun and a breath of fresh air after what the TV and negative news cycle have to offer.

Here is a collage of the kinds of articles you’ll find starting at our homepage:

Image: Collage with Interesting photos

It really is still an amazing world. Have a great day and stop by tomorrow to see what we have for you here!

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge

Liesl can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV