Koko The Sign Language Gorilla Dead At 46

Elias Hubbard
June 22, 2018

But gorillas in captivity can live for far longer, as they are not at threat from predators and have plentiful access to food.

Koko, a western lowland gorilla, was born on the Fourth of July in 1971.

Koko became an instant celebrity in her youth thanks to an early facility with American Sign Language. Koko's vocabulary eventually doubled.

When she was a year old, Koko was given to animal psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson, originally as a loan for her doctoral research, but the pair was never separated and Patterson became Koko's instructor and caregiver. At left, Koko indicates "eat" with bunched fingertips to her lips and gets her prize, at right.

Patterson raised $12,500 to officially adopt Koko.

In 2001, Koko famously befriend Robin Williams in a now-viral video.

She was the subject of a number of documentaries, and appeared on the cover of National Geographic multiple times.

One of the most memorable is of Koko taking a picture of herself in a mirror.

The first was named All Ball, a gray and white tail-less kitten, given to Koko for her birthday in 1984.

Following the article, the book Koko's Kitten was published and continues to be used in primary schools worldwide. When Williams died in 2014, Koko's handlers said she expressed sadness at the news.

Patterson remained Koko's trainer throughout her life and worked with her nearly daily.

In the story, Dr Patterson spoke of Koko's ability to understand and respond to human emotion, and even argue.

That's where she started learning sign language from a young age until the project she was a part of moved to Stanford, California, and then to The Gorilla Foundation.

The foundation says she has taught the world a profound amount about the emotional capacity and cognitive abilities of gorillas.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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