“Primatologists have long believed in a limited ‘vocal repertoire’ for each species of ape—rendering them unable to learn new sounds beyond a certain range. This theory suggests that development of verbal language is a uniquely human characteristic. Koko is perhaps on the verge of shattering scientific notion.
Some might wonder what weight, if any, this development might lend to the ape-personhood movement—a movement to have great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos) recognized as ‘persons’ and thus deserving of protections under higher law. (The implications of such a legal change would make it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out medical or pharmacological testing on apes of any kind.)”