Published: Thu, June 21, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Koko The Sign Language Gorilla Dead At 46

Koko The Sign Language Gorilla Dead At 46

Staff at the Gorilla Foundation explained to Koko that a friend of the center had died, which resulted in Koko hunching over in sadness and her lip quivering.

"Koko - the gorilla known for her extraordinary mastery of sign language, and as the primary ambassador for her endangered species - passed away yesterday [Wednesday] morning in her sleep at the age of 46", a Gorilla Foundation press release said.

Koko, the beloved gorilla who was able to communicate in more than 1,000 signs, has died at 46 in California's Santa Cruz mountains.

Patterson began working with Koko at a young age to teach her sign language.

The foundation says she has taught the world a profound amount about the emotional capacity and cognitive abilities of gorillas.

Announcing her passing today, the Gorilla Foundation said: "Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy".

Koko featured in documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice and started learning sign language when she was one year old. The first cover featured a photo she'd taken of herself in a mirror, the foundation said. Following the article, the book Koko's Kitten was published and continues to be used in elementary schools worldwide.

The pair bonded in 2001 when Williams visited the foundation, and Koko insisted he tickle her and also wanted to try on his glasses.

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