Koko, the most famous gorilla in the world, died in her sleep on Tuesday, at the age of 46. Koko had a bubbly personality and was very compassionate for other animals, especially for cats. She had the ability to use sign language to express herself, she could distinguish arts and music and she truly was one of a kind. Koko was the most beloved icon of primate intelligence!
“The Gorilla Foundation is sad to announce the passing of our beloved Koko. 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,” was said in the press release by the research center.
Koko was born as Hanabiko (Japanese for “fireworks child”)on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. When she was just an infant, she met with Francine Patterson, Stanford University graduate who would later found the Gorilla Foundation and become Koko’s teacher and lifelong caretaker.
By the year of 1972, Francine has taught Koko to recognize spoken words and to respond using the American Sign language. Koko has managed to learn 1000 signs and 2000 spoken words. Her favorite word was “queen” and she used it to describe herself.
Koko’s incredible conversational skills made her the cover girl of National Geographic in 1978. What’s unique about this cover is that she snapped her own photo! Once the magazine came out, there wasn’t a person on this planet that didn’t know who Koko was.
Koko also loved cute animals. In 1983, she asked for a cat for Christmas. She got a stuffed animal and she signed “sad” which meant the stuffed animals wouldn’t pass. The next year, for her birthday, the foundation gifted Koko a real Manx kitten called “All Ball”. She absolutely adored the kitten and was devastated when the cat got killed by a car. Koko has cared for many pets and she has received 2 kittens for her birthday in 2015.
Koko has created many extraordinary paintings over her lifetime and played the bass guitar. She became friend with many celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robin Williams.
“We shared something extraordinary—laughter. It was awesome and unforgettable,” said Robin Williams after their meeting.
Koko was truly awesome and unforgettable and she had a great impact on the world. She taught us that language, empathy and friendships are not only unique to humans.
Rest in Peace Queen Koko. The world will never forget you!