Koko The Gorilla, Who Talked to Rockers and Celebs, Dies at 46


Koko the Gorilla passed away at the age of 46 in her sleep at the Gorilla Foundation preserve in the Santa Cruz mountains, it was announced today. The remarkable Koko was able to use American Sign Language to communicate to many friends, including rockers and celebrities.

News of the passing of the beloved and special Koko drew tributes from around the world.

Robin Williams and Koko bonded - Photo courtesy of Gorilla Foundation
Robin Williams and Koko bonded – Photo courtesy of Gorilla Foundation

The Gorilla Foundation said Koko died on Tuesday. Koko, a western lowland gorilla, was born at the San Francisco Zoo. Dr. Francine Patterson began teaching the gorilla sign language in 1974. Koko could understand 2,000 words and could sign 1,000.

Mutual Love and Understanding

Koko and actor and comedian Robin Williams grew close in only a few moments together when they met in 2001, according to “Penny” Patterson.  At the time, Patterson said Koko may have recognized the actor from his movies. When Koko was told of Williams’ death by suicide in 2014, she was visibly upset, Patterson said.

Watch the touching video of Koko with her friend, the late Robin Williams:

Koko Was Beloved By Betty White, Flea

Koko enjoyed a celebrity lifestyle in many regards.  She was cherished and admired for her communication skills but also for her ability to bond with humans.

Betty White, who is on the board of the Gorilla Foundation gave a tribute through Twitter, posting “I treasure every minute we spent together.”

Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers said he too felt fortunate to meet Koko.

“Wow, this is the greatest thing that ever happened, this is a day that I will never forget in my life,” Flea said of his meeting with the gorilla.  Koko played his guitar and adjusted the knobs.

And while most animals might be considered benefactors of the efforts of mankind, Koko gave her human brothers and sisters a special gift indeed.