Cognition: Do Animals Know Where Babies Come From?
You may know Koko as a huge, happy, captive gorilla who uses some sign lan- guage. She is 44 years old now. She lives in California. She likes kittens. She even understands the birds and the bees and can help plan her parenthood — or at least that’s what a popular YouTube video would have us believe.
In the video, Koko’s caretaker, Francine “Penny” Patterson, presents the gorilla, who is too old to give birth herself, with a notepad outlining four scenarios by which she could become a mother. A group of gorillas — one adult male, two adult females and a baby — could come live with Koko and her adult male companion, Ndume, Patterson tells Koko. Alternatively, a newborn and one or two older babies could join them; in a third scenario, just a single infant could be added. The fourth option, she explains, is that two adult females could be brought in to make babies with Ndume for Koko. Patterson hands the list to Koko, who stops scratching her chest and appears to contemplate her decision. With her right index finger, Koko taps at the last option on the notepad. “Very good idea because it would make Koko happy and it would make Ndume happy,” the caretaker tells the gorilla.
So there we have it: Koko must know how babies are made. Why else would she choose baby makers over an actual baby? ...
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