Ape is enough

Ransom Riggs

So long as we're blogging about apes using the internet, I feel duty-bound to remember the web's own simian Neil Armstrong: Koko, the first gorilla to walk in cyberspace, making nerd history in 1998 by participating in the very first -- and to date, the only -- interspecies web chat. Now, while that sounds pretty impressive at first blush (as it must have to the more than 20,000 AOL subscribers who logged in to "watch," as it were), Koko's end of the conversation was somewhat less than scintillating, reading like the dregs of a hyperactive spam filter:

MODERATOR: Koko, do you feel love from the humans who raised you?
KOKO: Koko loves that nipple drink, go.

Claiming Koko could understand 2,000 words of spoken English, her trainer, Gorillologist Dr. Penny Patterson, taught her about half that many idioms of sign language. During the chat, Patterson acted as Koko's translator, interpreting and relaying her signs to an AOL moderator via phone. However, much of Koko's time online was spent demanding something to eat, and eventually devolved into nonsense as the moderator began to ignore her:

KOKO: Hurry give-me mouth nipple.
MODERATOR: So everyone, buy tee-shirts "“ each one is a donation to the gorilla preserve!
KOKO: Fine have food lips lipstick hurry.

gorilla_phone.jpg /

The astute reader may notice that Koko suffers from a malady not uncommon on the internet but downright odd in a gorilla: a nipple fetish. Which brings us to yet another giant leap for ape-kind pioneered by Koko: the sexual harrassment lawsuit. Named in at least three, the suits were brought by former employees of Dr. Patterson "“ all female "“ who claim they were pressured into flashing Koko and/or allowing her to grab their breasts. Bad gorilla!