PlayGround uses cookies to give you the best browsing experience. If you continue browsing we understand that you accept our cookies policy.

C
left
left

News

Koko, the much-loved gorilla who knew sign language and played with kittens, dies aged 46

H

 

Koko shaped the way we understand the lives and behaviours of gorillas and she will be well-missed by many - including her celebrity friends

Anna Freeman

22 Junio 2018 11:21

Koko, the famous and much-loved gorilla that learned sign language and was friends with many celebrities while in captivity in the US, has sadly died aged 46.

Koka was a female western lowland gorilla and rose to notoriety for her mastery of ‘gorilla sign language’. She died in her sleep at the Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in California, the foundation announced.

The gorilla was originally named Hanabi-ko – Japanese for ‘fireworks child’ – when she was born at San Francisco Zoo in 1971. Later named Koko, she learned sign language through a researcher, Dr Francine Patterson, and is believed to have understood around 2,000 words of spoken English.

Koko was the subject of numerous documentaries and also appeared on the cover of National Geographic in a picture that she took of herself in a mirror. A master of the selfie as well.

Perhaps the most heartwarming characteristic of Koko was her care of other animals. She adopted a kitten called All Ball, and when the feline was hit and killed by a car in 1984, Patterson was filmed asking Koko what had happened. Koko signed in response: ‘Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love.’

Tragedy came knocking again for Koko after the death of the actor and comedian Robin Williams in 2014. Koko and Williams had struck up a firm friendship in 2001, with the two filmed laughing and cuddling together.

The Gorilla Foundation said that Patterson told them Koko was ‘quiet and very thoughtful’ when told of Williams’ death.

Koko also met Flea, the bassist in the Red Hot Chill Peppers, and actor Betty White. The gorilla also demonstrated an ability to play the recorder. She was treated on one birthday to a box of live kittens to play with as well.

‘Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world,’ the Gorilla Foundation said.

share