She knew sign language. She had a vocabulary of over 2000 words and could even use them creatively. She displayed a sense of humor. She had pets, with a special fondness for kittens. She was friends with Mr. Rogers and Robin Williams. When she was informed of the latter’s death, she mourned for him. Let’s be honest about it; Koko the gorilla was awfully damn HUMAN.
Wild gorillas typically live between 30 and 40 years, while so-called “captive” gorillas, that are in fact well cared for, can make it to 50 or better. Koko and I were the same age. She was born one month before I was. Her death at 46 was the result of natural causes, and she was considered a senior citizen in gorilla years. The legacy she leaves behind is more important now than ever, when lowland gorillas are critically endangered. And she still has lessons to tell us about the lines between human and animal, a line that, as Koko proved, can be mighty thin at times.
It’s such an irony that people used to believe gorillas were vicious brutes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only real question is, how unique was Koko? Is it possible that ALL gorillas are capable of learning and feeling the same way she did? Might they all be a lot closer to human than we ever knew?
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!