The Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org
When Koko died in her sleep in California on June 19, people throughout the world immediately began mourning the gorilla.
Koko was a charmer and undeniably smart. She took an unusual route to fame. Stanford University graduate student Francine Patterson started teaching Koko a version of sign language in 1972, the year after the infant ape was born. Patterson rapidly developed a deep emotional connection to Koko.
Patterson’s claims that Koko learned to communicate and converse with sign language in a humanlike way won the gorilla legions of fans but also attracted much scientific criticism. Patterson’s work with Koko came at a time when captive chimps were also receiving sign language training.
Science News spoke with anthropologist Barbara King about Koko’s legacy. King, of