The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Koko the Gorilla Dead at 46, an 'Icon for Interspecies Communication and Empathy'
"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," the foundation said in a press release.
Koko was born Hanabi-ko (Japanese for "fireworks child") on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Animal psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson began working with Koko at the tender age of one.
She famously learned about 1,000 words in American Sign Language and could understand about 2,000 words of spoken English.
"Koko's capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions," the Gorilla Foundation noted.
She was featured in multiple documentaries and on the cover of magazines. The Oct. 1978 cover of National Geographic featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror.
Koko was also known for her love of cats and had pet kittens, including one named All Ball that Koko cradled on another National Geographic cover. The book Koko's Kitten, written by Patterson, is the true story of Koko receiving a kitten on her twelfth birthday and highlights their affectionate relationship.
In her PSA, Koko urges humanity to protect the environment. She signs: "Man Koko love. Earth Koko love. But Man stupid. Stupid! Koko sorry. Koko cry. Time hurry! Fix Earth! Help Earth! Hurry! Protect Earth. Nature see you. Thank you."
The Gorilla Foundation said at the time that "Koko was very interested in the subject." Koko was given a script drafted by NOE for the video and was allowed to improvise. She had to learn a few new signs, such as "Protect" and "Nature."
"The resulting PSA was edited from a number of separate takes, for brevity and continuity. However, Koko was clear about the main message: Man is harming the Earth and its many animal and plant species and needs to 'hurry' and fix the problem," the foundation said.
"This is the greatest thing that could ever happen," the musician remarked as he watched Koko plucking and strumming a guitar in 2016. "This is the greatest day that I will never forget in my life."
"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," the Gorilla Foundation stated.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.
The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
By George Citroner
- Recent research finds that official government figures may be underestimating drug deaths by half.
- Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016.
- Drug use decreases life expectancy after age 15 by 1.4 years for men and by just under 1 year for women, on average.
Government records may be severely underreporting how many Americans die from drug use, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.