A good number of films, both fiction and non-fiction alike, have been made about humans and primates. From the infamous “King Kong” (1933) to “Mighty Joe Young” (1998), there has been no shortage of speculation surrounding the relationships between apes and humans.
But what writers and directors have pictured through made-up realities, one woman accomplished through her relationship with one very famous gorilla. Koko and psychologist Francine “Penny” Patterson became inseparable decades ago.
What began as Patterson’s wish to teach Koko communication through sign language grew into a meaningful and lasting friendship between a woman and her non-human companion. Their bond soon became famous.
Patterson dedicated her life to Koko. “It seemed Penny was in love with Koko in the way in which a mother might be in love with her daughter,” one person mentioned in a PBS documentary.
It was in great deal due to Koko’s intelligence that The Gorilla Foundation was established in 1974. Since then, the foundation has worked to protect Koko’s species.
Sadly, a gorilla who meant so much to so many passed away on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at the ripe age of 46. “Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy,” a statement from the foundation read.
Koko was known for her gentility with other animals as small as kittens, as well as for her easy interaction with humans. Aside from her loving spirit, Koko communicated extremely well through the use of sign language.
But the beloved’s ape’s seemingly miraculous abilities didn’t stop at her knowledge of thousands of words. Koko could play the recorder, paint, and she even rubbed elbows with celebrities like Robin Williams.
“It was awesome and unforgettable,” Williams shared of his time with the gorilla. When the famous actor passed away, Koko also mourned his death too.
Throughout her lifetime she experienced both sadness and joy. Like humans, Koko knew the pain of grief and loss.
— Nat Geo Channel (@NatGeoChannel) June 21, 2018
The gorilla passed on peacefully. She died in her sleep and ever since the news was released, those she touched have taken their turns to not only mourn her death, but celebrate her life as well.
Koko will be missed, but her legacy lives on through The Gorilla Foundation, as well as through the lives she touched. The two-time National Geographic cover star will not soon be forgotten by those who loved her most.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.