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R.I.P. Koko

The Gorilla Foundation has announced the passing of Koko. Koko the lowland gorilla was born at the San Francisco Zoo and was only one year old when she began to train in sign language with Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson. Koko's amazing ability to communicate led to the establishment of the Gorilla Foundation. She had a vocabulary of around 1,000 words in sign language and understood around 2,000 spoken words. Koko loved to watch movies and was an avid fan of the TV show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. She was the first non-human to successfully participate in an internet chat. Koko was famous for her loving relationship with cats, and her intense bonding with her first kitten.

Koko’s capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions. She has been featured in multiple documentaries and appeared on the cover of National Geographic twice. The first cover, in October of 1978, featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror. The second issue, in January of 1985, included the story of Koko and her kitten, All Ball. Following the article, the book Koko’s Kitten was published and continues to be used in elementary schools worldwide. 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.

Koko was 46.

(Image credit: Flickr user sid)

In the new documentary about Fred Rogers, "Won't You Be My Neighbor" there's a lovely scene showing Mr. Rogers meeting Koko.
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Koko spoke to the world and was a true ambassador for the Gorilla Foundation highlighting the plight of the Western Lowland Gorillas.
I truly hope Dr. Patterson and the Foundation continue to work on behalf of the Gorilla and end the Bushmeat Trade in Africa Poachers and habitat loss are the Gorilla's biggest threats.
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