Koko, the Beloved "Talking" Gorilla Who Mastered Sign Language, Dies at 46 by Renee Herren

3 years ago

Koko, the gorilla who taught the world about the emotional capacity and cognitive abilities of gorillas, has died. “Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed," said The Gorilla Foundation in a statement. The 46-year-old western lowland gorilla died in her sleep at the foundation's preserve on June 19.

Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo on July 4, 1971, and Dr. Francine Patterson (Penny) began teaching the gorilla sign language as part of her Ph.D. thesis. From there, the mission of ensuring ape welfare, education and conservation was born. Koko’s ability to interact with people made her an international celebrity. Koko loved animals, liked to draw and loved to read books. With Penny’s help, Koko learned to use over 1,000 signs and it seemed she understood approximately 2,000 spoken English words.

Koko helped teach the world about unconditional love, empathy, patience, kindness and curiosity. Her impact was huge and her legacy is just as invaluable.

The foundation says those who want to share condolences can do so by emailing kokolove@koko.org.

Photo: The Gorilla Foundation

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Dr. Shayna Mancuso
So had to hear this. Koko taught us all so much.

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