An Internet Chat with Koko the Gorilla

This is the transcript of the AOL Live Internet Chat with Koko the gorilla. Which took place on April 27th, 1998, at 7pm EDT. In honor of the month long celebration of Earth Day. This event was the first ever live inter-species internet chat with Koko the gorilla. Brought to you courtesy of H.E.A.V.E.N. (Helping Educate, Activate, Volunteer and Empower via the Net), The Envirolink Network, The Gorilla Foundation, and AOL Live.

These pictures are of Koko's life, from the time she was baby being raised by Dr. Penny Patterson, to the years growing up at the Gorilla Foundation. In the past 26 years, she has raised kittens on her own, she has learned American Sign Language...with a working vocabulary of 500 words. Today, she has her own computer.

Penny Paterson and baby KokoPenny Paterson and baby Koko

The Gorilla Foundation was founded in 1976, to promote the protection and preservation of gorillas. Project Koko, which began in 1972, is the primary focus of the foundation.

HaloMyBaby is the moderator of the chat on AOL, DrPPatrsn is Koko's friend and trainer, and LiveKOKO is Koko the gorilla.

Scroll down to read the full transcript...

Welcome, Dr. Patterson and Koko, we're so happy you're here!

DrPPatrsn: You're welcome!
HaloMyBaby: Is Koko aware that she's chatting with thousands of people now?
LiveKOKO: Good here.
DrPPatrsn: Koko is aware.
HaloMyBaby: I'll start taking questions from the audience now, our first question is: MInyKitty asks, Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?
LiveKOKO: Pink
DrPPatrsn: We've had earlier discussion about colors today
LiveKOKO: Listen, Koko loves eat
HaloMyBaby: Me too!
DrPPatrsn: What about a baby? She's thinking...
LiveKOKO: Unattention
DrPPatrsn: She covered her face with her hands....which means it's not happening, basically, or it hasn't happened yet.
LiveKOKO: I don't see it.
HaloMyBaby: That's sad!
DrPPatrsn: In other words, she hasn't had one yet, and she doesn't see it happening. She needs several females and one male to have a family. In our setting it really isn't possible for her to have a baby.
HaloMyBaby: Do you see that situation changing when you get the Gorilla preserve on Maui?
DrPPatrsn: Yes, we do.
LiveKOKO: Listen.
DrPPatrsn: Koko wants to hear on the phone as we're doing this.
HaloMyBaby: Hi Koko! I can hear her! She breathed at me! This is so cool! In case you're curious, here's how Koko is able to participate in this chat: Dr. Penny Patterson is signing the questions to Koko from the online audience and a typist is entering for her.
DrPPatrsn: I'm working to create a family. In Hawaii, we'll have the ability to do that; she's almost assured to have a family of her own.
HaloMyBaby: So she really is looking forward to this!
DrPPatrsn: She's making happy sounds now...
Question: EFRN asks, Would Koko like to have a kitten, a dog, or another Gorilla as a friend?
LiveKOKO: dog
DrPPatrsn: She actually has two dog friends right now one kitty and two gorillas.
HaloMyBaby: SBM87 asks, What are the names of your kittens? (and dogs?)
 Koko's kitten
LiveKOKO: foot
DrPPatrsn: Foot isn't the name of your kitty
HaloMyBaby: Koko, what's the name of your cat?
LiveKOKO: no
DrPPatrsn: She just gave some vocalizations there... some soft puffing
HaloMyBaby: I heard that soft puffing!
DrPPatrsn: Now shaking her head no.
Question: Do you like to chat with other people?
HaloMyBaby: That was from Rulucky!
LiveKOKO: fine nipple
DrPPatrsn: Nipple rhymes with people, she doesn't sign people per se, she was trying to do a "sounds like..."
HaloMyBaby: BSikor439 wants to know, Koko, Which of your paintings do you like most? Is she still painting?
DrPPatrsn: She hasn't seen her paintings for awhile. She is still painting.
HaloMyBaby: Tell us what she's doing right now!
DrPPatrsn: She's re-arranging the furniture in her room, basically. Let me move some of these boxes back. There's a lot of stuff here. Let me ask her if she LIKES to second.
HaloMyBaby: Dr. Patterson, why is this such an important project?
DrPPatrsn: We're learning so many things on many levels, many of which I did not predict.
HaloMyBaby: You've devoted your whole life to it! What are we learning?
DrPPatrsn: I had started to simply see if another species could communicate with us in another language, such as sign language. She is very creative with that language and can talk about abstract things.
HaloMyBaby: I can see that!
DrPPatrsn: Surprising that she can be so creative. What I've discovered is that she has already got the system, it's not that I gave her this system. I simply share the vocabulary with her. It gives us a window into another species. They are our closest living relatives. It tells us so much about how we've evolved...learning so much about things such as reproductive physiology how they would like to see things happen in the future....she will respond to things at a sophisticated level...she actually discriminates phoning.
Question: I've heard people say she's not really communicating -- I think she's smarter than we are-- after all, how many of us can speak Gorilla!
DrPPatrsn: Exactly! She has learned our language but we haven't learned hers.
HaloMyBaby: What new things are there to learn after 26 years?
DrPPatrsn: It says a lot about her species. Well, every day brings new surprises in terms of learning about gorillas in order to save them, but also about learning about ourselves. The things she comes up with surprise me.
HaloMyBaby: A basic earthy question for Koko from Earth2Kim: Koko, what is your favorite food, fruit, or vegetable?
DrPPatrsn: Ok...she's thinking...
HaloMyBaby: People have a lot of stereotypes!
LiveKOKO: I like drinks.
DrPPatrsn: What kind are your favorites?
LiveKOKO: Apple drink.
HaloMyBaby: SickboyRE asks: Koko, have you taught other gorillas sign language, on your own?
DrPPatrsn: Good question.
LiveKOKO: myself
DrPPatrsn: part of that answer might be that she's taught us
HaloMyBaby: She's really creative!
DrPPatrsn: She's acknowledging that answer.
HaloMyBaby: She makes up some of her own terms, like Lips for woman.
DrPPatrsn: Right and foot for male.
HaloMyBaby: Another question from the audience: Does Koko like birds? I have the bird t-shirt she painted -- I'm wearing it now! (Available for purchase at KW Heaven!).
DrPPatrsn: She's very thoughtful today, she just walked away, she's looking out the window...
HaloMyBaby: She's looking at the birds!
DrPPatrsn: There are a number of blue jays that have been frequenting her play yard, exactly! She's going to look at the birds!
HaloMyBaby: Are there any birds out there now?
DrPPatrsn: One just flew by. She expresses herself with actions. This is typical of young children.
HaloMyBaby: This is a very abstract one for her: Are you content with your life? That was from Jedi114. I'm very curious to see what she might say to that! We know she might not be able to answer everything, but we're going for it anyway!
DrPPatrsn: Koko, are you happy?
LiveKOKO: fine
HaloMyBaby: Here's one: Koko, where would you like to visit?
DrPPatrsn: That's hard because Koko doesn't travel.
HaloMyBaby: We were wondering about that.
DrPPatrsn: Her concept of space is very limited even in terms of a child.
HaloMyBaby: Would she like to go to Hawaii?
LiveKOKO: Look.
HaloMyBaby: Me too!
DrPPatrsn: She actually has travel logs of Hawaii that she watches on TV.
HaloMyBaby: Does she watch TV?
DrPPatrsn: Only public broadcasting.
HaloMyBaby: LOL (laugh out loud).
LiveKOKO: Think.
HaloMyBaby: Storm 1004 asks, Dear Koko...I've watched you for years now...your gentle spirit is inspiration for many... I'd like to know what you'd like for your birthday.
HaloMyBaby: What a sweet question!
LiveKOKO: Birthday. Food and smokes.
HaloMyBaby: SMOKES?
DrPPatrsn: You have to understand...Smoke is also the name of her kitten.
 Koko, Penny Paterson, Smoky the cat
HaloMyBaby: HMBarbari: asks Koko, Have you ever tried to teach your kittens sign language?
DrPPatrsn: She still has Smokey. She's looking out the window right now...Actually, I can tell you that she has not tried to teach them sign language but she has tried to nurse her kittens.
HaloMyBaby: Wow!
DrPPatrsn: It's very important to her. She's 310 lbs. I can't get her to turn around...
HaloMyBaby: LBratt0n asks, Koko do you have an email address?
DrPPatrsn: Koko does have an email address
HaloMyBaby: JAM6860 asks, You like your trainer a lot don't you? (I think she means you, Dr. P!)
DrPPatrsn: no comment...LOL. She's thinking about it. LOL.
Question: Hi Koko, you are a beautiful gorilla. Was it hard to learn sign language?
HaloMyBaby: OceanFish asked that one! I agree -- she's the most beautiful gorilla I know! ReBeL1999 asks, do you dream at night? Wouldn't it be amazing to know what a gorilla dreams!
DrPPatrsn: I asked her this once... I had to explain it. I asked her if she heard, smelled, saw things. I needed to explain what a dream was.
HaloMyBaby: What do you like to do best, for fun, asks TrukkasW? Sounds like Koko might have had enough?
DrPPatrsn: Maybe she has...
LiveKOKO: Hear the phone.
DrPPatrsn: Is there anything you'd like to say, Koko?
HaloMyBaby: We knew she might only be able to chat for about a half an hour...
DrPPatrsn: She just gave a little vocalization. She wants a little refreshment here.
Question: Were you real real sad when your cat died?
HaloMyBaby: BDurant79 asked that.
DrPPatrsn: She does remember her cat that died.
HaloMyBaby: How long ago was that?
DrPPatrsn: She does react with emotional words...That was in 1985. She's having some snacks and food here.
LiveKOKO: lips, hurry, good, give me.
HaloMyBaby: Lips is woman, right?
DrPPatrsn: Right. She's got an alligator. She's playing with her alligator and her lady doll. Oh, my! She may be doing a little acting out here.
HaloMyBaby: She sounds like she's working out a bit of aggression! I'm trying to get a picture of where you are, what it looks like?
DrPPatrsn: We're in Koko's kitchen area. There are toys all around a refrigerator, television, stuffed animals, videos. It's got a lot of stuff including a harmonica but she pushed it away, doesn't want to play with that. I gave her a couple of fabric bracelets... she's looking at them. She's putting it on her head because actually these are scrunchies.
LiveKOKO: fake, hat that
DrPPatrsn: She's pulling one of them and it's not fitting her hair.
HaloMyBaby: Does she have hair? Or is it like fur?
DrPPatrsn: She has hair.
LiveKOKO: fine
DrPPatrsn: She has fine hair. It's beautiful!
HaloMyBaby: How big is she?
DrPPatrsn: She's about 5 feet tall and weighs about 300-310 lbs. She has a big tummy!
HaloMyBaby: Koko tell us what you look like in your words?
LiveKOKO: flower
DrPPatrsn: One of the scrunchies has a big flower on it.
LiveKOKO: eat now
DrPPatrsn: She wants some more of the snack, apparently.
LiveKOKO: sleep, red red
DrPPatrsn: She's indicating the red scrunchie.
LiveKOKO: sip
DrPPatrsn: I think it's about dinner time for her now.
HaloMyBaby: How do you feel about Michael?
LiveKOKO: foot, foot, good
HaloMyBaby: foot means male, right?
LiveKOKO: nipple
DrPPatrsn: Remember that foot=male, right.
LiveKOKO: good
DrPPatrsn: She's acting out a little here.
HaloMyBaby: What about Ndume?
LiveKOKO: bad
HaloMyBaby: Oh dear.
LiveKOKO: toilet
HaloMyBaby: Uh oh!
DrPPatrsn: That's her word for bad!
HaloMyBaby: I thought he was supposed to be her mate! What did he do to you today, Koko?
DrPPatrsn: I don't know... she doesn't have good things to say about him today.
LiveKOKO: down
DrPPatrsn: What did he do today? He did something that was obnoxious, but I didn't see what happened. Maybe they had a little tiff.
HaloMyBaby: This is interesting, from the audience, not sure how you'd ask this: Koko, do you feel love from the humans who have raised you and cared for you? Ely35150 asked that. We'll see what she says!
DrPPatrsn: She's reading a birthday card.
LiveKOKO: lips, apple give me
DrPPatrsn: People give her her favorite foods.
LiveKOKO: love, browse drink nipple
DrPPatrsn: Browse is like... the little foods/snacks we give them.
LiveKOKO: koko loves that nipple drink, go
DrPPatrsn: She's kissing her alligator.
LiveKOKO: lights off good
DrPPatrsn: That's like a closer.
HaloMyBaby: That sounds like a good segue!
 Koko, Penny Paterson and a flower
DrPPatrsn: She makes that sign when Ron has the lights on the camera.
HaloMyBaby: Let's let her off the hook then! Tell us that about the Maui preserve, what you're hoping to do?
DrPPatrsn: Our dream is to establish a preserve, 70 acres of land donated on West Maui by Maui Land & Pineapple Company that would be a sanctuary for gorillas including Koko, Michael and Ndume. A place where they would be safe and would be able to raise a family.
HaloMyBaby: Will you be able to recreate a natural family unit there?
DrPPatrsn: We're hoping. Not only would we have a more natural environment because the climate is more like Africa, but also we'd be able to have one male, several females and their babies.
LiveKOKO: fake
DrPPatrsn: The alligator is biting the lady doll...
HaloMyBaby: What does fake mean to her?
LiveKOKO: gorilla
DrPPatrsn: She knows that what I'm saying hasn't happened yet.
LiveKOKO: brown
HaloMyBaby: She IS smart!
LiveKOKO: bad
DrPPatrsn: So, she's indicating that "fake" is not what she has now, even though I'm talking about it and the reason we haven't been able to make it happen yet is that we're working very hard to raise the money to make it happen. It will take about $7 million, and we're less than 1/2 way there.
HaloMyBaby: So everyone, buy t-shirts -- every one is a donation to the preserve! At Keyword:Heaven after the chat!
DrPPatrsn: We're hoping that corporations and the public will help us. We want Koko and her future family to share this dream. She very much wants to have a baby. She's indicated that this is what she wants.
HaloMyBaby: Is she about finished, do you think?
LiveKOKO: good, fine
DrPPatrsn: She's now putting a comb in the alligator's mouth.
LiveKOKO: have food lips
DrPPatrsn: Ok. She's ready for dinner!
HaloMyBaby: So we should say goodbye?
DrPPatrsn: She blew a kiss!
HaloMyBaby: Good bye and thank you Koko!
HaloMyBaby: Thank you Dr. Patterson!
LiveKOKO: look
HaloMyBaby: I would be happy to come see her so she could look at me!
LiveKOKO: hat that
DrPPatrsn: She's playing with her alligator.
HaloMyBaby: What will she do now when we get off the phone? What does she eat for dinner?
DrPPatrsn: She'll be very pleased to have her dinner. She has raw vegetables for dinner. She wants to hear, but the phone cord won't stretch.
HaloMyBaby: Hello Koko? (I just asked her about her dinner over the phone!)
LiveKOKO: visitor, koko loves lips
HaloMyBaby: I love her too!
LiveKOKO: good
HaloMyBaby: I'd like to see you some time!
DrPPatrsn: She's playing with her troll doll now!
DrPPatrsn: We'll sign off now!
HaloMyBaby: Thank you and good night!

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