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Nature & Environment

Koko the sign language gorilla dies aged 46

By T.K. Randall
June 22, 2018 · Comment icon 16 comments

Koko bridged the divide between man and ape. Image Credit: YouTube / The Gorilla Foundation
A gentle gorilla who famously mastered sign language and understood 2,000 words has sadly passed away.
Arguably the best known member of her species in the world, Koko was a female western lowland gorilla who over the last 46 years had shown just how similar humans are to our primate cousins.

Trained from a young age by Francine "Penny" Patterson, Koko's communication skills were only equivalent to that of a human child but were nonetheless highly impressive for an ape.

Her remarkable talents, coupled with her gentle demeanour, made her famous across the world.

"Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy," the Gorilla Foundation wrote in a press release.

"She was beloved and will be deeply missed."



Source: BBC News | Comments (16)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #7 Posted by and then 6 years ago
I bet she was the only Gorilla that threw up signs and smoked cigarettes 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Seti42 6 years ago
RIP. I wonder if 46 is venerable for a gorilla or not, though. I'd guess they die younger in the wild. Hopefully other apes/chimps will be taught sign language. I wouldn't want the experiments in inter-species communication to end.
Comment icon #9 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
Oh.....sorry to hear. 
Comment icon #10 Posted by AustinHinton 6 years ago
RiP Koko... 
Comment icon #11 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 6 years ago
46 is quite old for a gorilla. In the wild they often live around 40 years. When they were first kept in captivity they often only lived a few years and died. As our knowledge about them grew, so did their life spans in captivity.  Colo famously was the first gorilla born in captivity and the oldest gorilla in captivity (as of April of this year there are 2 other females gorillas in captivity thought to be 61 years old) when she died at the age of 60 here at the Columbus Zoo. Her grandson, Mac, (brother to Mosuba, the first gorilla twins born in captivity) still leads a troop here. He'll be ... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by Jon the frog 6 years ago
''She was beloved'' Did she had kids ? Did she got a glimpse of a real Gorilla life ? Was impressed and sad while looking at Koko. Maybe she was beloved by human and at the same time more or less being imprisoned for life for scientific study...just sad for her and for us.
Comment icon #13 Posted by openozy 6 years ago
I wonder why I find animals passing sad and people not so much.Hopefully her spirit goes back to the forrest.R.I.P  Koko.
Comment icon #14 Posted by psyche101 6 years ago
I really don't know about that.  She was beloved, treated well, learned more than any other gorilla, she even met Robin Williams! I honestly wonder if she had ever seen him on the TV and recognised him.  Point is she had a unique rich life with people who loved and cared for her. Darwinism order is harsh, we don't like it or live by it, there's no reason to think a regular meal, a warm place to sleep and friendly presence around is not a bad option IMHO. We naturally lived outdoors too, but I wouldn't want to go back to that way of life. Koko was given much love and I think the people around... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Jon the frog 6 years ago
Yeah she was fed, she had a good place to sleep, protection, toys and entertainment.  Did she live like a gorilla, no, did she helped human get a better view on another sentient being, yes. She was an experiment more or less and for that I find it a bit sad. Think about a kid that you put in a golden cage all his life to train him and observe him. Sure that his caretaker was loving her. I worked in a conservation facility and I was a caretaker/animal trainer. It's far from always joy and pink like most people try to believe. Most mammals got their daily dose of antidepressant drug to keep the... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by psyche101 6 years ago
Well I think it was a unique and marvellous opportunity. It seems a pretty good existance. Living like a gorilla means constantly hunting food  at mercy to the elements and predators. And we were probably just as much an experiment for Koko as she was with us. I see her life as a mutual experiment that enriched her life as well. Rather than a kid in a cage, I think this was a unique opportunity that benefited both.  Maybe that's the case but it's not my experience here. I'm not an animal trainer but I have built enclosures for tigers and polar bears. They seem pretty active and rather threat... [More]


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