Koko, The Gorilla Who Mastered Sign Language and Showed Remarkable Empathy, Dies at 46

Koko, the gorilla, has passed away.

June 21, 2018
By: TLCme

Koko, the gorilla who re-defined the lines of human communication has passed away at the age of 46, as reported by The Gorilla Foundation. Koko served as an ambassador for her species, raising awareness and making people realize the special connection humans and animals have, as she touched the lives of millions.

Koko, a western lowland gorilla, was originally born as Hanabiko (which is Japenese for "Fireworks Child") on the 4th of July 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Her lifelong care-taker, teacher and friend was Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson and she taught her sign language, eventually starting The Gorilla Foundation. One of the largest lessons Koko taught the world was her capacity for language and empathy. NPR reports that in 2001 Koko made fast friends with the likes of Robin Williams, as she tried on his glasses, showing him around and getting him to tickle her. Years later Koko seemed to recall seeing Willaims in a movie and in 2014 she mourned the loss of Williams.

Williams described the experience as "awesome and unforgettable." Throughout her life, Koko revealed a range of emotions, such as sharing glee and sadness with researchers. In the video with Williams, you can even see the two sharing laughter. When Koko's kitten Ball passed away, you could see the grief and tears in her eyes.

Koko's life has taught us that animals and humans can share empathy and if taught perhaps animals can communicate their thoughts and feelings.

The Gorilla Foundation will honor her legacy by working on wildlife conservation efforts.

The Gorilla Foundation says those who want to share condolences can do so by emailing kokolove@koko.org.

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