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How Koko The Gorilla’s Outstanding Life Changed The World As We Know It


Koko the gorilla has passed away at 46-years-old, breaking millions of hearts around the world. This bright creature was a revolutionary who contributed massively to the bridge of communication between animals and humans. This is the incredible life story of Koko and all that the gorilla unknowingly accomplished in her lifetime!

Koko’s Early Life: Encouraging Her Brilliance

Koko was born on the 4th of July, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Over the years, the gorilla became a national treasure! Of her many early caretakers, one instructor decided to work with young Koko to try to develop a system of communication. Dr. Penny Patterson started to introduce her to a modified version of American Sign Language. No one could have anticipated how brilliant Koko actually was!

The Gorilla Foundation

Making Strides In Communication And Self-Awareness

Before long, Koko was grasping onto a variety of signs and growing remarkably receptive to the English language. She slowly inherited the ability to use over 1,000 different signs! However, this wasn’t where Koko’s brilliance ended. The bright gorilla could also recognize herself in the mirror, remember items and people, and construct her own words.

Ronald Cohn/National Geographic Creative

Koko’s Incredible Bonds

Koko also showed an incredible amount of emotion, including empathy, humor, and longing. One of Koko’s primary desires was to have a kitten to care for. When she was given one for her birthday, she grew incredibly attached to the little creature. Later, when her kitten was hit by a car, she was inconsolable for days, signing words like “sad” and “cry.” And Koko’s emotional core wasn’t limited to other animals.

Wildlife Views

Human Attachments

Koko made friends with celebrities like Betty White, William Shatner, and Fred Rogers, who fell in the love with the gorilla’s glowing personality. She grew especially close to late comedian Robin Williams after sharing a joyful, laughter-filled day with him. When Williams’ passed, Koko felt his loss and withdrew for several days. Gorilla researchers couldn’t wrap their heads around just how advanced Koko was in terms of emotional aptitude and communication!

Digital Journal

Koko’s Continued Success

Throughout her lifetime, Koko accomplished a number of other tasks that defied expectations. She learned to play the recorder, photographed herself for Time Magazine, and even used sarcasm and irony in her conversations! Koko’s monumental advancements have forever altered the scientific world. Hopefully, more gorillas like her will come along to teach us about the empathy, compassion, and brilliance of animals.

Ron Cohn/The Gorilla Foundation

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