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Sign Language Icon Koko The Gorilla Passes Away At 46-Years-Old

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The animal world suffered another loss this week. An iconic and intriguing gorilla that made waves in the science world just passed away.

RIP Koko The Gorilla

The Gorilla Foundation released the tragic news on June 20. They announced that their beloved gorilla, Koko, died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 46 on June 19. The nonprofit organization noted that Koko, which is short for Hanabi-ko and translated in Japanese as "Fireworks Child," served as an ambassador to her species and helped bridge a better understanding between humans and animals.

After her birth in a San Francisco Zoo on July 4, 1971, she met the teacher who would play a significant role in her life. Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson worked with Koko and together the duo would change the way humans looked at gorillas. Part of the success of their partnership was that Patterson taught the gorilla American Sign Language. It was reported that throughout her life, Koko could perform over 1,000 signs and learned 2,000 English words.

Admirers And Accomplishments

Koko also had celebrity admirers. Television legend Betty White posted a tender moment between her, Patterson, and Koko on her official Twitter account. She also appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and even played with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea's guitar. Oscar-winning actor-comedian Robin Williams had well-documented encounters with Koko, who first met the gorilla in 2001. The Gorilla Foundation leaders stated that Koko was inconsolable when they shared the news of his passing.


Throughout her life, Koko achieved numerous accomplishments. She graced National Geographic's cover twice in her life, once with her beloved kitten, "All Ball," and by herself when she used a camera to take a "selfie" in front of a mirror. Her relationship with "All Ball" was documented in a children's book titled, Koko's Kitten, that is still used by elementary schools across the country.

"Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed," said the Gorilla Foundation in a statement transcribed by the Los Angeles Times.

Other Animal Deaths

Perth Zoo revealed that Puan, the world's oldest Sumatran Orangutan, passed away at 62-years-old. Puan, whose name translates to "Lady" in Indonesian, was the matriarch of the Sumatran Orangutan tribe. She had 11 children and 54 descendants that not only lived with her, but in various zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world including the United States and different parts of Europe.

A South African wildlife sanctuary mourned the deaths of four large cats. Poachers poisoned three lions and one rare tiger cub. These poachers wanted the animals' body parts to be able to sell them to witch doctors, who might use them in ingredients to conduct dark magic.

Tech Times reached out to the Gorilla Foundation for a comment on this story.

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