R.I.P. Koko the Gorilla

Koko the Gorilla is dead. For those of you who don’t know, Koko was a western lowland gorilla who learned hundreds of words in sign language and even had a pet kitten. She went on to grace the covers of magazines, appear in several documentaries, and meet with famous people like Fred Rogers and Robin Williams. She passed peacefully in her sleep at the age of 46.

The Life And Times Of Koko The Gorilla

Digital Addicts Koko the Gorilla Dead

Koko the Gorilla with Penny Patterson

Born on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, Koko was originally named “Hanabiko”—which is the Japanese word for “fireworks child.” One year later, graduate student Francine “Penny” Patterson began teaching her sign language. Koko went on to develop a very large vocabulary. Patterson went on to create the Gorilla Foundation with biologist Ronald Cohn and Barbara F Hiller.

Digital Addicts Koko the Gorilla Dead

Koko and her “baby.”

One Christmas, Koko was asked what she would like for a present. She signed that she wanted a kitten. Not knowing how the gorilla would treat another animal, they gave her a stuffed kitten. Koko wasn’t impressed. The following July, they allowed her to pick a kitten from a litter for her birthday. She chose one and named it All Ball, because she loved to rhyme and sign. The pair formed a close bond until All Ball wandered from the facility where they lived and was run over by a car. When Koko learned of her feline companion’s death, she was inconsolable for days.

What Does Koko The Gorilla Have To Do With Digital Addicts?

Digital Addicts Koko the Gorilla Dead

Koko signing some of her words.

Normally, here at Digital Addicts, we write about the latest tech like smart watches, VR headsets, and cell phone spy app programs. So why are talking about a gorilla this time? Well, we try to mix science articles with tech because without science, we wouldn’t have any tech to talk about. Also, communication. Koko learned to communicate with humans via sign language. We today are trying to create computers and other tech to communicate with us. Communication is part of evolution. It’s a big part of our future—just as it’s a big part of our present and our past—and teaching another species to communicate through sign language may equate to us someday communicating with alien visitors, like in 2016’s Denis Villeneuve-helmed film, Arrival.