Koko the gorilla has had a number of kitten companions over the years, and for her 44th birthday on July 4, two new feline friends entered her world.
Since Koko was a baby, she has been using sign language to communicate with her carers at the Gorilla Foundation in California, and in the video she signs for one of the kittens to be put on her head. The great ape quickly fell in love with the little grey kitten — then its black sibling fell in love with her.
The world has been given regular glimpses into Koko’s life over the years. Her caregivers claim that in addition to her apparent signing skills, she is learning breathing and vocal patterns associated with speech. She’s even been a National Geographic cover star twice: in 1978 and 1985.
The Gorilla Foundation‘s “Project Koko” is the longest running interspecies communication in history and the only one involving gorillas with an emphasis on enhanced care and wellbeing. The Foundation’s mission is to create empathy for great apes, which can have significant benefits to both endangered free-living great apes and those in captive environments.