The world’s most popular primate adopts—and is adopted by—a pair of feline pals.
image via youtube screen capture
To even the most causal of primate-philes, Koko the gorilla is famous for two things: A mastery of over one thousand words of sign language, and an adoration of all things feline. It was her love of cats that was on full display leading up to her 44th birthday this past summer summer. Wrote Gorilla Foundation director and lead researcher Penny Patterson at the time:
About a month ago, Koko began letting me know what she wants for her (44th) birthday (July 4th) which we’re celebrating today — a new kitten to care for.
She started dropping hints by leaving books and magazines open to photos and drawings of kittens, alone and in family settings, for me to conveniently see. Koko has been without a kitten for a few years now, and while she would probably prefer taking care of a baby gorilla with an extended family, I know she will be more than happy to “mother” a kitten in the meantime — it’s in her nature to nurture others!
Koko’s feline fixation began over thirty years ago, in 1983, when the then-preteen gorilla requested a cat as a Christmas present from her caretakers. Koko’s relationship with her tail-less kitten, “All Ball,” was cut tragically short after the later was hit by a car—later described in the bestselling picture book, Koko’s Kitten. Since then, Koko has had a number of cat companions to look after, and in 2010 began regularly receiving “kitten visits” arranged by the Humane Society. Still, it had been some time since the gorilla had had cats to call her own—something she clearly missed.
So, on her 44th birthday, Koko was presented with a litter of kittens, as requested, from which—unbeknownst to her at the time—not one, but two were to become her permanent companions. The whole experience was captured on tape, and was recently made public by The Gorilla Foundation. Watch as an animal at least six times stronger than a human being gently caresses a tiny kitten, even letting it paw around on top of her head:
[youtube ratio="0.5625" position="standard" ]
This is the only glimpse of Koko and her new cats we’ve been shown thus far, but the Gorilla Foundation has teased the possibility of using this latest interspecies relationship as the basis for a forthcoming sequel to Koko’s Kitten.