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Koko, the gorilla who knew over 1,000 signs and 2,000 English words, dies at 46

Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas, says The Gorilla Foundation

Woodside (California): Koko, the gorilla who was famous for knowing over 1,000 signs and could understand about 2,000 English words, has died. The Gorilla Foundation said that the 46-year-old western lowland gorilla died in its sleep at the foundation’s preserve in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains on Tuesday.

The western lowland gorilla was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971 and began to learn sign language early in life. She was said to have understood some 2,000 words of spoken English.


Researchers moved her to Stanford in 1974 and established The Gorilla Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to preserve and protect gorillas. Koko and The Gorilla Foundation then moved to Santa Cruz Mountains, CNN reported.

“Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy,” the release said. “She was beloved and will be deeply missed.”

Meet Koko the gorilla

  • Koko knew even modifying words to express new meanings about how she was feeling. Koko was also a painter, choosing her colours and paint brushes with care.
  • The gorilla was featured on the cover of National Geographic twice in her lifetime, once taking a picture of herself in a mirror and another time holding her pet kitten.
  • She was widely promoted through appearances and the release of a picture book about her and a kitten that lived with her.
  • The foundation says Koko’s capacity for language and empathy opened the minds and hearts of millions. Koko appeared in many documentaries.
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