Koko, the world-famous gorilla that mastered sign language, died in her sleep at the age of 46. Koko was living at a preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains run by The Gorilla Foundation.
The foundation announced the sad news saying that "Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy."
Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971, where she was taught sign language by Dr. Francine 'Penny' Patterson. In 1974, Dr. Patterson teamed up with Dr. Ronald Cohn and moved Koko to Stanford University where they continued to teach Koko an adapted form of sign language known as "Gorilla Sign Language." Koko was able to learn about 1,000 words in sign language and capable of understanding around 2,000 spoken words.
Over the years, Koko became a pop icon, getting to meet celebrities like Robin Williams, Betty White, and Mister Rogers.
"Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world," the Gorilla Foundation said.
"The foundation will continue to honor Koko's legacy and advance our mission with ongoing projects including conservation efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui, and a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of both gorillas and children."
Photo: Getty Images