TNB Night Owl – Koko the Gorilla

Koko, the famous western lowland gorilla who was known for mastering sign language, painting, and mothering kittens, has died in her sleep at the age of 46.

She was featured in several documentaries and was on the cover of National Geographic twice. The 1978 cover featured a picture taken by Koko of herself in a mirror.

Born on July 4, 1971 in the San Francisco Zoo, she was named “Hanabi-ko”, which is Japanese for “Fireworks Child”.

Koko was taught sign language early on. She mastered over 1,000 signs and understood 2,000 words of spoken English. The Gorilla Foundation says she liked to be read to, purring when her favorite parts were read. She painted. She loved kittens. She had several of them in her lifetime, starting with the first “All Ball”,  so named because he looked like a little ball to her.

Gen X children grew up with the book Koko’s Kitten. Millennials, too.


Famous herself, Koko met with several celebrities over the years. Mr. Rodgers, for instance.

William Shatner.

And Robin Williams.

For people my age, Koko was part of our childhoods – I remember learning about the huge ape who cradled her pet kitten and communicated through sign language.

While Koko taught us much about gorillas, she perhaps teaches us even more about ourselves as humans. She was creature with enormous strength who used that strength to gently nurture the weaker creatures that came into her life.  She made friends with species that were not her own and mourned them when they died. She made people smile and laugh and wonder at the amazing world we live in. To strive to be a little more like Koko would not be a bad thing these days.

Farewell, Koko. Thank you for the memories and the lessons you taught us.


About the opinions in this article…

Any opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website or of the other authors/contributors who write for it.

About Beth 2795 Articles
*Principle above party * Politically Homeless * Ex GOP * Tribalism is stupid* NeverTrump ≠ Pro Hillary. Anti-GOP ≠ Pro Dem. Disagreeing with you ≠ Liberal. Counter Social: @NoMorePlatosCave