WOODSIDE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Koko, the world’s most famous gorilla — known for her communication abilities, her gentleness, and being an ambassador for her species, passed away on June 19th of this year.
On July 4th, 2018, we are celebrating Koko’s life and legacy — mastering 2-way communication with humans (through American Sign Language). July 4th would have been Koko’s 47th birthday, and The Gorilla Foundation is making it a celebration of her life, via a private gathering in Woodside, CA with caregivers and volunteers, and a new tribute video made available to the public at koko.org.
Koko, whose full name is Hanabiko (“fireworks child” in Japanese), touched the lives of millions of humans and other great apes, as an ambassador for her species and as an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She is beloved by millions worldwide and will be deeply missed.
“We have learned that ‘All Gorillas are Kokos’— by working with several gorillas (Koko, Michael and Ndume), who all showed gestural language capacity, advanced cognitive abilities and a wide and deep range of emotions, much like humans. This has been reinforced by other studies that have revealed that both free-living and zoo gorillas employ natural gestures to communicate,” said Dr. Penny Patterson.
“Our goal is to continue improving 2-way communication with great apes, for the benefit of both captive care and conservation, and I know that both Koko’s spirit and the knowledge and wisdom she has given us will guide the way forward — gorillas still desperately need our help,” said Dr. Patterson.
The Gorilla Foundation plans to get the message out through new, advanced educational materials and tools, so that the next generation can learn, empathize and do a much better job of taking care of our fellow great apes (and the planet) than previous generations. It also plans to advance the science of interspecies communication by sharing and building upon over four decades of multimedia research data and insights (a unique asset associated with the longest-running interspecies communication study in history). This applied knowledge will enable us to save great apes from extinction, and improve their lives (and our interactions with them) in captivity.
“In my four-plus decades of life with Koko, I feel I have just scratched the surface. There is so much more to do and learn by communicating with great apes,” said Dr. Patterson.
Over the next few years, The Gorilla Foundation plans to mine its 46-year data archive, and share it with the public in the form of a new Koko App (designed to help people learn sign language directly from Koko), and a multimedia database that will empower crowd-sourced research (for example, transcribing thousands of hours of ape-language videos, using the Koko App).
The Foundation is asking the public to turn any sadness or grief about Koko’s passing into positive action by keeping Koko’s legacy alive and helping further The Gorilla Foundation’s mission by donating at koko.org and sharing stories and thoughts about Koko on social media using #kokolove.