Koko The Gorilla Adopts 2 Baby Kittens After Being Unable To Have Her Own Kids

Koko the gorilla is well-known for learning a huge variety of hand signals from a modified form of American Sign Language.

But what is less commonly known is that she adores infants, despite never having had the opportunity to have her own.


She frequently signs ‘baby,’ holds gorilla dolls in her arms, and even pretends her dolls can sign by moving their arms and hands. In honor of the ape’s 44th birthday, her handler Francine Patterson presented her to a litter of kittens.

She made the sign for ‘cat’ followed by ‘baby’ during her visit with the kittens, indicating to her trainers that the kittens were now her adopted offspring. She also requested that one of the kittens be placed on her head in sign language.

Koko was gentle with the small balls of fluff when they came in a cardboard box, cautiously darting a finger out to pat them despite her gigantic hands being the size of the baby kitties. Koko was videotaped at the foundation’s base in Woodside, California, receiving a cardboard box carrying the kittens and peering inside.

Despite having the size of the creatures in her hands, she was delicate with the small balls of fluff, softly flicking a finger out to brush them.

Koko is shown taking her time before attempting to pick up one of the kittens, as though she wants them to become used to her first.

She then takes a little grey cat in her hand.

The gorilla massages the cat’s tummy with her index finger after bringing it up to her face for a better look before nestling it under her arm for a snuggle. Later, another cat is seen urgently attempting to escape from an animal carrier bag in order to snuggle up to the great ape.

The video ends with Koko motioning for one of the cats to be placed on her head before signing that the animals are her babies.

The lovely video was uploaded to YouTube by the kokoflix account and is additional proof of Koko’s ‘biggest dream’ – to have her own kid.

According to the information supplied accompanying the video, the gorilla and two of the kittens are now part of one happy family.

According to Koko’s trainer, the extraordinary ape understands over 1,000 signals of what Patterson refers to as ‘Gorilla Sign Language.’ Koko was also exposed to spoken English from a young age and is said to grasp roughly 2,000 words of the language. ‘Koko received her birthday wish this July 4th – not only did one cat come to visit, but a complete litter,’ the kokoflix account wrote accompanying the video.

‘Koko fell in love with one, and the other with her.’ Koko’s world has been invigorated by the addition of these two kittens to her brood.

‘Not only have Koko’s mother and play impulses kicked in, but she is signing more to her caretakers and providing fresh content every day that The Gorilla Foundation can use to promote empathy for great apes,’ said the organization.

According to the charity, fresh material can assist both endangered free-living great apes and those kept in captivity.

And it promotes the development of two-way communication with caretakers, which Koko has had since she was a baby.

Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo and has spent her whole life at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside.

She spent a lot of time with two male gorillas, according to the foundation’s website, but did not initiate ma.ting with either. She had a ‘sibling connection’ with one, which di.ed in 2000, and has yet to show interest in ma.ting with the other, despite getting along ‘very well’ with them.

She is also in an unusual social setting and attempts to bring in other female gorillas have seemingly failed.
‘Koko’s greatest dream is to have her own kid,’ according to a post on the site.

‘We’ve known this for years since she frequently signs the word BABY and holds her gorilla toys as gorilla moms do with their kids.’

‘In play or in answer to queries, she even pretends that her baby dolls can sign by shaping their arms and hands.’

Koko had previously demonstrated a fondness for cats, requesting a cat for Christmas in 1984 through her ‘sign language.’

The vocal and respiratory behaviors linked with the gorilla’s capacity to communicate were considered to be unachievable in her species.

Several psychiatrists attempted to raise chimps alongside human children in the 1930s and 1940s, attempting and failing to train them to talk. Since then, it has been widely believed that apes cannot deliberately regulate their noises or even their breathing.

Experts also believed that each ape species’ vocal repertoire was set, making it impossible for them to acquire new sounds and breathing patterns.

This would imply that the human ability to communicate is unique.

‘This concept suggests there’s nothing that apes can accomplish that is remotely equivalent to speaking,’ said postdoctoral researcher Marcus Perlman.

‘As a result, speech evolved virtually – wholly new – down the human line since our last common ancestor with chimps.’


Dr. Perlman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison began to study at The Gorilla Foundation in 2010, where Koko has spent more than 40 years living immersed in people and engaging with psychologist Penny Patterson and biologist Ron Cohn for hours on end.

‘I went there with the intention of studying Koko’s motions, but when I started viewing films of her, I noticed her displaying all these incredible verbal behaviors,’ he explained. He said that the speech and respiratory behaviors he witnessed were regarded to be impossible.

He combed over 71 hours of film of Koko engaging with Nathaniel Clark of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and discovered recurring examples of her executing nine different voluntary behaviors that required control over her vocalisation and breathing.

These were learned behaviors that were not typical of gorillas, seemingly disproving earlier views.

Koko was observed by the researchers blowing a “raspberry” when she desired a treat, blowing her nose into a tissue, playing wind instruments, blowing on a pair of glasses before wiping them with a cloth, and mimicking phone conversations by chattering wordlessly into a telephone cradled between her ear and the crook of an elbow.

‘She doesn’t make a nice, periodic sound when she conducts these behaviors, as humans do when we talk,’ explains Dr. Perlman.

‘However, she has enough control over her larynx to generate a controlled grunting sound.’

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