Koko the signing gorilla made history this week, when she underwent dental surgery for a self-diagnosed toothache.
The famous gorilla, who can sign over 1,000 words and has an IQ over 75--higher than many mid-level managers--told her handlers that she had a toothache by pointing to her mouth and flashing the symbol for "pain". Her handlers gave her pain medication, and 12 medical specialists volunteered to perform treatment.
Of course, this is just the sort of thing that drives the press crazy, and the story has been reported across the globe. For some reason, stories about "talking" animals just go over better than stories about the latest developments in neurology or particle physics.
The upshot to all these press stories about Koko's health is that we get a rare glimpse into the private life of the world's most famous gorilla. For instance, we learn about Koko's lushly appointed apartment in Woodside, California, where she enjoys television and DVD movies. We also learn about her sex life, and about how she and her partner of 11 years have been trying to conceive for years (Koko was given a clean gynecological/obstetric bill of health, leading to wild speculation that her partner may be firing blanks).
The aching tooth was successfully removed under anesthesia. There is no word yet what led to the tooth decay, although Koko's dietary habits may leave something to be desired. When the medical specialists met with Koko before the surgery, Koko "asked one woman wearing red to come closer. The woman handed her a business card, which Koko promptly ate."