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Koko, the Gorilla who Learned to communicate has Passed Away

Koko, the gorilla famously known for her exceptional expertise of sign language passed away in her sleep yesterday morning. This gorilla was the primary ambassador for her endangered species and was 46 at the time of her death.


Koko was an icon for thousands of interspecies communication and empathy and had touched the lives of thousands of gorillas as an ambassador. She was admired by all and will be missed a lot by everyone.

She was born on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo in Hanabi-ko (Japanese for “Fireworks Child”). Koko was a western lowland gorilla. Dr. Francine “Penny” Patternson taught her sign language the very next year after her birth. In 1974, Dr. Ronald Cohn and Dr. Patterson moved the project and Koko to Standford and later on, they established The Gorilla Foundation. The project got expanded while it was processing at Stanford and they decided to include a second lowland gorilla named Michael. Later, The Gorilla Foundation and Koko was moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1979 where one more member Ndume joined them in their project as a fellow ambassador for their species.

Koko’s ability for language and understanding has opened and the hearts of millions. She became so famous for her extraordinary skills that she has been featured in various documentaries and also was on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first issue was in October 1978, in which her photograph was featured which she had taken herself in the mirror. The second cover was in 1985 in the January issue which included the story of Koko and her kitten named All Ball. Subsequent her articles, there was a book published titled Koko’s Kitten, which is still used in elementary schools throughout the world. Her impact has been so intense that she was the one who taught us all about the emotional capacity of gorillas. She also told the world that how the cognitive abilities of gorillas have shaped the world.

Koko’s legacy will continued to get its honor by the foundation and they will continue to advance their mission with ongoing projects which includes the great ape sanctuary on Maui, conservation efforts in Africa, and a sign language application that will feature Koko for the benefit of both the gorillas and children.


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