Koko the gorilla who 'mastered sign language' dies

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Koko the gorilla died today after having lived to the age of 46, having spent her life famous for mastering American Sign Language. Sadly, the world-famous gorilla has passed away at the age of 46, at her home at The Gorilla Foundation in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Dr. Francine (Penny) Patterson began working with Koko the following year and taught her sign language, the foundation said.

Koko was born July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo.

Koko, the beloved gorilla that learned to communicate with humans and then stole their hearts, has died.

"Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy", the statement read.

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Koko went on to become featured in several documentaries, including 1978′s "Koko: A Talking Gorilla", and appeared twice on the cover of National Geographic. Betty White met Koko in 2004 and wrote about the gorilla in her book If You Ask Me.

Some 10 years younger than Koko, Ndume was selected to be her mate but a relationship never developed.

When "Good Will Hunting" actor Williams committed suicide in 2014, Koko was said to have been particularly upset. She was said to enjoy many TV shows and movies, including "Golden Girls" and "Pretty Woman".

Koko was also part of a lawsuit when two former caretakers said they had been fired to refusing to bare their breasts to the gorilla, who apparently loved nipples. Koko's notoriety also earned her a roster of loving celebrity friends, including Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Mr. Rogers, and perhaps most famously, Robin Williams.

It grew into a decades-long friendship that revealed a deeper side of Koko and her ability to understand, though some experts questioned Patterson's methods and Koko's abilities.

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