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Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language, passes away at 46

22 June 2018

One of the world's best-known and most well-loved gorillas, Koko, died in her sleep on Tuesday morning of this week, the Gorilla Foundation announced.

Koko was born Hanabi-ko (Japanese for "Fireworks Child") on Jul 4, 1971, at the San Francisco Zoo. Williams made her smile.

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

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While some scientists questioned the claim, the gorilla became an internet sensation and appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine twice.

"It changed the image of apes, and gorillas in particular, for the better, such as through the children's book "Koko's Kitten" that may young people have grown up with". Even Koko's gorilla companion at the compounded, Ndume, is in a sad state, signing "sad".

Those who knew Koko shared their moments spent with her and many took it to the internet to post their condolences. Patterson and biologist Ronald Cohn moved Koko to their newly established preserve in 1974 and kept teaching and studying her, adding a male gorilla in 1979.

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If you were a kid in the '90s, you wanted to do three things: go to Space Camp, complete the Temple Run on Legends of the Hidden Temple, and meet Koko, the sign language gorilla. "She was beloved and will be deeply missed", the statement said. At left, Koko indicates "eat" with bunched fingertips to her lips and gets her prize, at right.

Most gorillas like Koko live in the wild for 30 to 40 years; in the care of humans, they can live as long as into their 50s, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. In memory of Koko, we're celebrating her life with this video of her having fun with her dear friend, Robin Williams. Koko's mastery of sign language allowed her to connect with other living beings on a deeper level, as witnessed through her adorable bond with kittens and her ability to grieve and feel loss. Koko also appeared on an episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood.

The World Animal Foundation estimates the average lifespan of a mountain gorilla to be 53 years in captivity.

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Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language, passes away at 46