National Geographic : 1978 Oct
Tea-for-two party begins as Penny offers X" Koko a wrapped present. Penny signs, "Present," and Koko replies, "Box" (right). After removing the paper, the go rilla inspects the plastic tea set (middle). Koko gives the teapot to Penny and signs, "Sip?" (below). Invented by Koko, this sign is a combination of "eat" and "drink" and is inflected as a question by Koko's looking directly at Penny and mak ing the sign toward her. "It is a special sign that Koko uses when she wants people to pretend," explains Penny, who replies with the sign for "Pen ny?" meaning, "You want me to sip?" Koko enjoys pretend games; she will "smoke" a twig or pencil. She is toilet trained and helps Penny clean her room in the trailer, though she has to be prodded to pick up her toys. After sponging the floor clean, she usually tears up the sponge. Koko makes attempts to talk and has even used the phone. A horrified operator traced the call, thinking it was either from an obscene caller or a dying man. For more on the tea party, turn the page. picture. On entering adolescence, the gorilla developed a fondness for a young biologist--she named him "Foot"-who worked with monkeys in a trailer next door. "She had all the symptoms of a teenage crush," says Penny. "She was very shy and didn't know what to say. She didn't want him to get too close, or too far."