Photo by @james_balog | (post continued from yesterday) Penny leaves me alone in the room with Koko. Her parting words are something to the effect of “Hey, you wanted to be in here with her. If she decides she doesn’t like you, I can’t do much to save you anyway. And oh yeah, you only get 30 minutes, because she tends to fall in love with guys if you stay any longer.” What have I gotten myself into, I wonder?
At first, Koko is reluctant to enter the room where I have set up the background and lights. But she is clearly curious, so I use myself as bait and sit cross-legged on the floor where I want her to be. She finally overcomes her caution and comes walking over on the knuckles of her front hands, not stopping until her head is four inches away from mine. Gorilla breath wafts around my face.
A standoff ensues. I had learned long ago that many animals consider a direct stare into their eyes to be a threat; I keep my eyes cast down at the her lower legs and torso. She stares and stares at the top of my head. No picture is going to happen like this and most of my time is already spent. I decide to take my chances: I lift my head and stare straight into Koko’s chestnut-brown eyes.
She raises her right hand. With a hairy index finger, Koko gently taps my left temple, then my cheek, then plucks at the mole below my eye. She lifts my right arm and licks it. She puts one arm around my shoulder, the other on the back of my neck, and pulls my face to her chest. Then she gently pushes me away, reaches her huge black arm down inside the collar of my green and white striped shirt.
And plays with my nipples.
Many years later, I learn that tapping the temple is American Sign Language for “think”. Koko was thinking—and telling me to do the same. Ever after, I have had the deepest respect for the psyche of animals, a largely unexplored universe that we humans barely comprehend. #koko #ripkoko #photography #endangered #photooftheday