Koko, the Gorilla Who Knew Sign Language, Dies at 46 - NBC Bay Area

Koko, the Gorilla Who Knew Sign Language, Dies at 46

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    Koko, the Gorilla Who Knew Sign Language, Dies at 46

    Koko the gorilla who mastered sign language, raised kittens and once playfully tried on the glasses of the late actor Robin Williams, has died. She was 46. Robert Handa reports.

    (Published Thursday, June 21, 2018)

    Koko the gorilla who mastered sign language, raised kittens and once playfully tried on the glasses of the late actor Robin Williams, has died. She was 46.

    The Gorilla Foundation says the western lowland gorilla died in her sleep at the foundation's preserve in California's Santa Cruz mountains on Tuesday.

    Remembering KokoRemembering Koko

    "Koko will make an impact for years to come, for generations to come. We wanted her to live forever...we were all sort of hoping." Koko the legendary Bay Area gorilla is being mourned worldwide. We take a look back at her incredible legacy.

    (Published Friday, June 22, 2018)

    Koko's capacity for language and empathy opened the minds and hearts of millions of people, the foundation said. She appeared in many documentaries and twice in National Geographic. The gorilla's 1978 cover featured a photo that the animal had taken of herself in a mirror.

    Gorilla Foundation COO Remembers KokoGorilla Foundation COO Remembers Koko

    Koko the gorilla who mastered sign language, raised kittens and once playfully tried on the glasses of the late actor Robin Williams, has died. She was 46. Sharon Katsuda reports.

    (Published Thursday, June 21, 2018)

    Williams, another San Francisco Bay area legend, met Koko in 2001 and called it a "mind-altering experience." The two hold hands and tickle each other in a widely shared video.

    "We shared something extraordinary: Laughter," he says. "Koko understands spoken English and uses over 1,000 signs to share her feelings and thoughts about daily events. Life, love, even death."

    "It was awesome and unforgettable," said the actor, who killed himself in August 2014.

    Fans mourned Koko's passing, and the foundation's website experienced excessive traffic on Thursday.

    Raw Video: Koko in Natural ElementRaw Video: Koko in Natural Element

    Here is some raw video of Koko. You'll notice she wanted to get higher than our photographer Jeremy Carroll during this segment. Height equals power in gorilla-land.
    (Published Friday, March 8, 2013)

    "Legit bawling like a baby right now," posted a person on the foundation's Facebook page. "From an early age I was fascinated with Koko and she taught me so much about love, kindness, respect for animals, and our planet."

    Another person posted: "At least Koko can finally be reunited with All Ball."

    "All Ball" was the name of the first of several kittens Koko raised into cat-hood. She chose the gray-and-white kitten from a litter for her birthday in 1984, according to a 1985 Los Angeles Times article.

    "The cat was a Manx and looked like a ball. Koko likes to rhyme words in sign language," said Ron Cohn, a biologist with the foundation.

    Raw Video: Penny PattersonRaw Video: Penny Patterson

    The woman who has dedicated her life to Koko talks about what its like to live your life with a gorilla.
    (Published Saturday, March 9, 2013)

    All Ball died after being hit by a car. Cohn said she was devastated by the kitten's death.

    Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo, and Dr. Francine Patterson began teaching the gorilla sign language that became part of a Stanford University project in 1974.

    In 2004, she used American Sign Language to communicate that her mouth hurt and used a pain scale of 1 to 10 to show how badly it hurt, according to an AP news story.

    Raw Video: Koko at HomeRaw Video: Koko at Home

    She held her plate level with the dainty dexterity of a lady at the Ritz, never spilling a morsel. She was very intrigued by our camera and she gestured repeatedly for Patty Patterson to unlock her gate and let us inside.
    (Published Friday, March 8, 2013)

    Koko was also part of a lawsuit when two former caretakers said they had been fired to refusing to bare their breasts to the gorilla, who apparently loved nipples. The women settled with the foundation in 2005.

    Koko painted objects in her environment but also expressions of her thoughts and emotions. She used signed language to name her paintings.

    The foundation says it will honor Koko's legacy with a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of gorillas and children, as well as other projects.