[color:blue]Gorilla seeks help using sign language<br>- - - - - - - - - - - -<br>By Bilen Mesfin<br><br>Aug. 9, 2004  |  WOODSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- When Koko the gorilla used the American Sign Language gesture for pain and pointed to her mouth, 12 specialists, including three dentists, sprang into action.<br><br>The result? Her first full medical examination in about 20 years, an extracted tooth and a clean bill of health.<br><br>About a month ago, Koko, a 300-plus-pound ape who became famous for mastering more than 1,000 signs, began telling her handlers at the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside she was in pain. They quickly constructed a pain chart, offering Koko a scale from one to 10.<br><br>When Koko started pointing to nine or 10 too often, a dental appointment was made. And because anesthesia would be involved, her handlers used the opportunity to give Koko a head-to-toe exam.<br><br>"She's quite articulate," volunteer Johnpaul Slater said. "She'll tell us how bad she's feeling, how bad the pain is. It looked like it was time to do something."<br><br>Twelve specialists -- a Stanford cardiologist, three anesthesiologists, three dentists, an ear and throat specialist, two veterinarians, a gastroenterologist and a gynecologist -- volunteered to help.<br><br>"It's not often that we get to work on a celebrity," said Dr. David Liang, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford. "Probably, Koko is less demanding."<br><br>The team came to Koko on Sunday, bringing portable X-ray and ultrasound machines. They set up shop at her "apartment," which looks like a remodeled box car, complete with a makeshift toilet, television, DVD player and lots of toys.<br><br>After four hours of tests -- including a colonoscopy, gynecological exam, dental work, X-rays, and ultrasounds -- doctors pronounced her fit.<br><br>Koko, who celebrated her 33rd birthday July 4, was due for a checkup. While gorillas in captivity are known to live into their 50s, they are susceptible to heart disease and a thickening of the arteries.<br><br>Koko and Ndume, her partner of 11 years (he doesn't "speak"), have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby, and the doctors thought the checkup could let them know whether she had any biological problems preventing it. She doesn't.<br><br>Her teacher, Francine Patterson, was at her side when the anesthesiologist prepared to put her under in the morning, and apparently Koko asked to meet her specialists.<br><br>They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favorites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer. The woman handed her a business card, which Koko promptly ate.<br><br>Otherwise, Koko was calm, Liang said.<br><br>The Gorilla Foundation has studied gorilla intelligence by teaching American Sign Language to Koko and another gorilla, Michael, who died in 2000.</font color=blue><br><br>I have the book on Koko's education, published back in 1981. What an interesting critter! I wonder why her mate hasn't learned to "speak"? I don't know that people have tried to teach him, but I imagine that Koko has. Maybe she's not a good teacher <br><br>
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