At around the age of 11 Hanabi-Ko was seen as being able to be gentle with the smallest of creatures, in this case tiny tree frogs around her yard. She captured one, and cradled it gently under her arm (keeping it safe from Michael). After holding it for a while, she sets it down on some rocks in an area to protect it from “possible rough play.” This was the first example of her “innate gentleness and nurturing spirit towards small, vulnerable creatures, and her regard for other species.” but it certainly was not her last. A year after her gentle frog play, she received a kitten, whom she named “All Ball (All Ball because they did not have a tail).” Hanabi-Ko loved All Ball, always playing with them, but this joy did not last long. Only 6 months after her 12th birthday, the day she received her kitten, All Ball was hit by a car. Hanabi-Ko was heartbroken, signing about her friend's death for days after getting the bad news. It was a while until she was ready for another kitten. But in 1985 she chose two kittens, who she named Lips Lipstick, because unlike All Ball, they had a pink nose and mouth, and the second kitten she named Smoky because they looked like a cat in one of her books. Smokey passed away 20 years later due to natural causes, but recently, in 2015, she chose two more kittens, Miss Black and Miss Grey.
In 1991 Koko selected a possible love for her named Ndume who was 10 at the time. I will now stop beating around the bush, this special blog is about the lovable, adorable, talking gorilla, Koko, whose birthday happens to be today. Her full name means “Fireworks Child.” The awareness the work she has done with her caretaker, Penny, has caused great changes in how people saw gorillas. It was because of the results of the unique communicative possibilities Koko gave rise to The Gorilla Foundation. Michael's rescue was because of The Gorilla Foundation who gave him a home. Sadly on June 29th of 2000, Michael passed away due to a major cardiovascular diseases found in gorillas (humans too) called fibrosing cardiomyopathy. That said, after learning sign language Michael was able to tell his story, and it is because of his ability to do so, he raised awareness of gorilla hunting. With the passing of Michael, Koko is the only talking gorilla left.
However, we need not to worry about Koko. She still has her kittens to look after, Ndume (whose name translates to “Male” in Swahili), and her long time friend, Dr. Francine Penny Patterson who is not only responsible for teaching Koko sign language, but is also the founder of The Gorilla Foundation, best known for “Project Koko.” Here is a link to the website if you would like to know more about Koko: http://www.koko.org. And below I have included a documentary titled “A Conversation with Koko the Gorilla.”
I will end with this. I wish Koko a very happy 45th birthday, with many coming...and with them probably kittens on the way. I hope you have enjoyed this Koko centered special blog entry.