Koko, The Beloved Gorilla Who Learned Sign Language, Has Died At 46: Watch Some Of Her Best Moments

Late yesterday morning, The Gorilla Foundation announced on Twitter the passing of a much beloved gorilla, one that captured both the attention and the heart of people around the world for her thoughtful intellect and empathy. Best known for mastering sign language, Hanabi-ko or “Koko” as she was affectionately called, died on Wednesday in her sleep, at the age of 46.

As The Gorilla Foundation noted, Koko “touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy.”

Take a look at the clips below from the many documentaries made of Koko during her lifetime. If social media reaction is any indication, her infectious spirit will be missed by many.

Koko was a friend to all, enjoying meeting and working alongside many humans, including her longtime companion and sign language instructor Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson. 

Koko was born on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Her name means “Fireworks Child” in Japanese. During her lifetime, this lovable western lowland gorilla learned more than 1,000 different signs and met many interesting people, including several beloved celebrities. 

Two of the most inspiring meetings were those between Koko and Mr. Rogers and Koko and Robin Williams—they are a study in unconditional love, and the joy she brought both men is palpable:


She was also known for her deep affection for her feline companions, even inspiring the popular children’s book, Koko’s Kitten

Here is a clip of Koko first meeting her kittens.

And her sadness at the loss when one of them died:

This big-hearted gorilla was a shining example of love and empathy for all of us. The Gorilla Foundation has pledged to continue to honor Koko’s legacy in their future wildlife work.

H/T: Mashable, Twitter