HILLSBORO, OR—In what is being hailed as a major breakthrough by the scientific community, a team of researchers announced Monday that they had successfully taught American Sign Language to a 43-year-old gorilla-suit-wearing man.
Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center told reporters that Brian, a western Kansas–born gorilla-costumed male living in their facility, has already learned well over 250 words in sign language, including all 26 letters of the alphabet, basic greetings, and even several short, simple phrases.
“It’s been an extensive process, but it’s remarkable to see Brian starting to express his thoughts and emotions to us with signing,” said lead researcher Rebecca Hayes, telling reporters that after just nine months of instruction, the full-grown great-ape-suit-wearing man is already capable of stringing his thoughts together into almost complete sentences. “Not only does he have the ability to tell us when he’s hungry or thirsty, but he can now use signs to demonstrate feelings of happiness, anger, and even love.”
“Of course, Brian’s vocabulary must expand considerably before we can engage in normal conversation with him,” Hayes continued. “But until then, his limited command of sign language is providing a fascinating glimpse inside the mind of an adult gorilla-suit-wearing human.”
Despite Brian’s current success with sign language, researchers told reporters the 180-pound gorilla-suit-wearing man struggled in his early lessons, and was often unable to use his shaggy, glove-covered fingers to form even basic vocabulary words.
“When we first started communicating to Brian in sign language, he would often spend hours just staring at us with a completely blank expression,” said assistant researcher Michael Pereira, who works with the middle-aged gorilla-suit-clad man daily in his naturalistic enclosure within the facility. “But now, the second Brian sees us coming, he excitedly leaps to his molded-latex feet and rushes over to our research team to impart information to them with sign language.”
“None of this should be considered too surprising, of course,” added Pereira. “Our findings show the average gorilla-costume-wearing individual shares an estimated 100 percent of a human being’s genetic code.”
While the work of the Oregon-based team has not gone without its criticism, with many saying Brian isn’t actually learning sign language, but merely mimicking gestures, primatologists training the advanced gorilla-suit-wearing man claim they have detected more and more signs of comprehension on his latex-masked face each and every day.
“Everyone who has worked with Brian will verify that he really does display a rudimentary understanding of what we are saying to him.” Hayes told reporters. “In fact, each of the researchers made a connection with Brian and forged a meaningful bond with him. He is one of the most affectionate and compassionate gorilla-suit-wearing men I’ve ever encountered.”
“When you look deep into his large, rubber-cutout eyeholes, you can tell that he’s really engrossed in contemplation,” Hayes added.
In an effort to promote a better understanding of their research, Hayes and her team recently launched The Brian Project, a website filled with video documentation of the remarkable gorilla-suit-wearing man. Among the released videos, there is footage of the 43-year-old’s first attempt at signing his own name, a clip where he signs “I love you” to a female researcher, and a particularly intriguing segment showing a frustrated Brian beating his vinyl chest after failing to understand a sentence and uttering what scientists believe to be a muffled, barely audible “Goddammit.”
Zoologists from around the country have already begun expressing their interest in the studies, with several speculating that Brian’s developments could radically change not just how science views gorilla-suit-wearing men, but the entire evolution of primate-costumed people as we know it.
“Essentially, we can now say that gorilla-suit-wearing humans are far smarter and more capable than anyone could have previously anticipated,” said Princeton University primatologist Jeffrey Harding. “Hopefully, our research on a specimen like Brian will change the general public's preconceived notions and society will eventually learn to look beyond these creatures’ cheap metal zippers and realize that they are actually quite similar to you or me.”
“Ultimately, however, I hope this study has the greatest impact on our conservation efforts,” added Harding. “If only to help the rapidly dwindling population of gorilla-suit-wearing men throughout the world.”
Just two days after Hayes and her team spoke with reporters, members of the Oregon National Primate Research Center issued a solemn statement saying they were forced to euthanize Brian on Wednesday, after the gorilla-suit-wearing man suddenly felt threatened in his environment and violently attacked a researcher, leaving him in critical condition.