We are sad to report that the beloved gorilla Koko, who could communicate with humans via sign language, is dead at the age of 46. Here’s everything to know about her.
Koko The Gorilla died in her sleep in Woodside, California on June 19, the Gorilla Foundation confirmed. “The foundation will continue to honor Koko’s legacy and advance our mission with ongoing projects including conservation efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui, and a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of both gorillas and children. Here’s everything you need to know about the famous gorilla, who was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971.
1. She knew sign language. Koko was most famous for the fact that she knew sign language, and could communicate with humans via the non-verbal cues. She started learning sign language when she was just one-year-old, and at the time of her death, she was able to use more than 1,000 signs, according to her caregiver, Francine Patterson. However, Francine’s research has been criticized throughout the years, with some researchers claiming there’s no way to tell if Koko really understands the meaning behind what she’s signing.
2. She could understand spoken English. Along with her ability to sign, Koko could also understand about 2,000 words of spoken English, according to Francine. It’s widely believed that Koko’s understanding and use of language was no more than that of a young human child.
3. She famously had a pet cat. Koko was also an exception for being one of the only non-human creatures to have a pet. She asked for a pet cat for Christmas in 1983, and when she only received a stuffed animal, she made it clear she wasn’t happy. She finally got her kitten for her birthday in July 1984 and named it All Ball. She nurtured the kitten for months, but sadly, later that year, All Ball escaped from the cage and was killed after being hit by a car. Koko signed that she was sad after All Ball’s death, and the next year, she was able to get two new kittens, who she named Lipstick and Smoky. She received two more for her birthday in July 2015, named Miss Black and Miss Grey.
4. She was separated from her mother at a young age. Koko was just one-year-old when she had to be separated from her mother at the San Francisco Zoo. It was then that Francine asked if she could use Koko for research for her PhD at Stanford University. The zoo wanted to take Koko back when she was five years old, but Francine raised more than $ 12,000 so she could officially adopt her.
5. She’s met several celebrities. Koko has spent time with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robin Williams. She was also part of a 2016 viral video with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea, who let her strum his guitar!