Koko, the internationally famed gorilla who had developed the ability to communicate in sign language died in her sleep at age 46.
Koko was known as an extremely intelligent mammal for several reasons. She could understand more than 2,000 words of spoken English. She had mastered 1,000 signs that were taught to her by researcher Francine Patterson. Koko was also the subject of several documentaries.
According to the National Geographic, the western lowland gorilla Koko was originally named Hanabi-ko, Japanese for “fireworks child,” at the San Francisco Zoo. After being moved around the world, she came to reside in the Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in California.
Koko adopted a kitten called All Ball and when the latter died after being hit by a car, Koko was seen on camera expressing her grief saying: “Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love.”
She stuck up a friendship with several celebrities including actor and comedian Robin Williams and Betty White. Scientists were surprised when Koko displayed an ability to play the recorder and was thought to have an IQ of between 75 and 95, with the human average being 100.
A Gorilla Foundation press release said: “Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed.”