Sat, Jun 23, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Gorilla who learned sign language dies

The Guardian

Gorilla Koko interacts with her lifelong teacher and friend Francine Patterson in an undated handout photograph.

Photo: AFP/The Gorilla Foundation

Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language and formed several celebrity friendships while in captivity in the US, has died aged 46.

The female western lowland gorilla, which gained fame for her mastery of “gorilla sign language,” died peacefully in her sleep at the Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in California, the foundation said.

Originally named Hanabi-ko — Japanese for “fireworks child” — after being born at San Francisco Zoo in 1971, Koko learned a rudimentary sign language through a researcher, Francine Patterson.

Koko reportedly understood about 2,000 verbal English words.

The subject of numerous documentaries, Koko also appeared on the cover of National Geographic in photograph that she took of herself in a mirror.

Koko adopted a kitten called All Ball and when the feline was hit and killed by a car in 1984, Patterson was filmed asking Koko about it.

Koko signed in response: “Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love.”

Further anguish was to come for Koko following the death in 2014 of actor Robin Williams.

Koko and Williams had struck up a firm friendship in 2001, with the two filmed laughing and cuddling.

The foundation said that Patterson told them Koko was “quiet and very thoughtful” when told of Williams’ passing.

Koko also met Flea, the bassist in the Red Hot Chill Peppers and actress Betty White.

The gorilla also surprised scientists in 2012 by demonstrating an ability to play the recorder. A treat for one birthday was a box of live kittens to play with.

“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 foundation said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top