4.5
August 12, 2011

“Michael, a gorilla who knew sign language, described his mother being shot as he watched.”

Cry bad think trouble look face.

Michael the gorilla was taught sign language by Koko, the first signing gorilla. He began signing “Squash meat gorilla. Mouth tooth. Cry sharp-noise loud. Bad think-trouble look-face. Cut/neck lip (girl) hole.” Researchers believed this was a description of the poaching death of his mother. (en.wikipedia.org)

Join: Animals are People, too.

With thanks to Reddit, where there’s a helluva debate about the below:

Michael grew up with Koko; they learned sign language together, they both painted beautifully, and they became like brother and sister. But Michael didn’t come to live with Koko until he was 3 1/2 years old. As an infant in Africa, he lost his parents at the hands of poachers, in the illegal bushmeat trade, and witnessed his own mother’s demise. In this clip, Michael responds to a question about his mother with this description of that event — a memory that he conveyed several times, before his own passing in 2000. Michael will be remembered by Koko and everyone at the Gorilla Foundation always — he was a true inspiration.

Lesson: Gorillas can not only use language to communicate their current wants and needs, they can also use it to relate memories. From Michael we learn directly about the tragedy of the bushmeat crisis, which he experienced firsthand as a baby.

Date Added: Mar 23, 2008
Videographer: Ron Cohn

Bonus: Humans (and squirrels and apes) aren’t the only ones who can parkour, either:

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Waylon Lewis  |  Contribution: 595,440