Koko, gorilla famous for her mastery of sign language, dies at 46

Sadly, the world-famous gorilla has passed away at the age of 46, at her home at The Gorilla Foundation in the Santa Cruz mountains. Animal psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson began teaching Koko to sign while she was a graduate student in 1972, work which eventually became part of a project at Stanford University.

She was understood to have been able to understand more than 1,000 words and was able to understand some spoken word english.

That same year, Schroeder filmed her for the feature docu "Koko: A Talking Gorilla", which played in Un Certain Regard in Cannes.

The first cover in 1978 featured a photo that the animal had taken of itself in a mirror.

Koko's social nature was well documented and she was famous for having adopted a pet kitten, which she named "All Ball".

"Koko's capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions", the Foundation said in a statement.

'She was beloved and will be deeply missed'.


The Gorilla Foundation announced on Twitter that it was "sad to announce the passing of our beloved Koko".

Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971.

She liked to read and be read to, a blog post by The Gorilla Foundation said. She chose the gray-and-white kitten from a litter for her birthday in 1984, according to a 1985 Los Angeles Times article.

Koko was among a handful of primates who could communicate using sign language; others included Washoe, a female chimpanzee in Washington state, and Chantek, a male orangutan in Atlanta.

She has also been exhibited as a painter.

"Betty met Koko in 2004 and became best friends nearly immediately", says the description of their meeting on The Gorilla Foundation's website.

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