Koko The Gorilla Has Died - Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language, is dead. The 46-year-old western lowland gorilla died in her sleep Tuesday at the Gorilla Foundation preserve in California.
Koko gained worldwide fame for her ability to communicate. The gorilla famously spent time with the late comedian Robin Williams and showed sadness when told he died. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea was also one of her friends. Of Williams, Dr. Penny Patterson, who taught Koko said "Robin's ability to just 'hang out' with Koko, a gorilla, and in minutes become one of her closest friends, was extraordinary and unforgettable."
She was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971 and learned sign language early at age 3 as part of a Stanford University project. She mastered 1,000 words of sign language and was able to understand 2,000 words of spoken English.
The Gorilla Foundation released a statement saying "The foundation will continue to honor Koko's legacy and advance our mission with ongoing projects including conservation efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui, and a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of both gorillas and children."