‘Extraordinary’ sign language gorilla Koko dies in California

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An “extraordinary” gorilla that mastered sign language has died.

Koko, the gorilla who can communicate through sign language, has died

The Gorilla Foundation announced on Twitter that it was “sad to announce the passing of our beloved Koko”.

The foundation said the western lowland gorilla, who developed an “Extraordinary mastery” of signing, died in her sleep aged 46.

Koko featured in documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice and started learning sign language when she was one year old.

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Animal psychologist Francine Patterson and ‘Koko’ in 1972

She was born in San Francisco Zoo, but three years later she was moved to Stanford, where under the tutorship of Dr Francine Patterson and Dr Ronald Cohn she developed her skills.

Koko was later joined in the project by a second lowland gorilla, Michael, and was eventually moved to the Santa Cruz mountains in California where they were joined by a third gorilla, Ndume.

A spokesperson for the Gorilla Foundation, said: “Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies comunication and empathy. She was beloved and wil be deeply missed.”

Koko appeared on the cover of her first National Geographic in 1978 and featured a picture she had taken of herself in the mirror. Her second cover, in the January of 1985, featured Koko an her kitten, All Ball.

A book called Koko’s Kitten followed, which is used in schools worldwide.

Videos featuring Koko and other kittens she has looked after have been viewed thousands of times worldwide.

The foundation has announced it will honour Koko’s legacy with conservatons efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui and a sign language app for the benefit gorillas and children.



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