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Koko

Gorilla who could use sign language

Died when: 46 years 350 days (563 months)
Star Sign: Cancer

Hanabiko "Koko" (July 4, 1971 – June 19, 2018) was a female western lowland gorilla.Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo and lived most of her life in Woodside, California, at The Gorilla Foundation's preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The name "Hanabiko" (花火子), lit. ''fireworks child'', is of Japanese origin and is a reference to her date of birth, the Fourth of July.

Koko gained public attention upon a report of her having adopted a kitten as a pet and naming him "All Ball", revealing her ability to rhyme.

Her instructor and caregiver, Francine Patterson, reported that Koko had an active vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs of what Patterson calls "Gorilla Sign Language" (GSL).

This puts Koko's vocabulary at the same level as a three-year-old human.In contrast to other experiments attempting to teach sign language to non-human primates, Patterson simultaneously exposed Koko to spoken English from an early age.

It was reported that Koko understood approximately 2,000 words of spoken English, in addition to the signs.Koko's life and learning process has been described by Patterson and various collaborators in books, peer-reviewed scientific articles, and on a website.

As with other great-ape language experiments, the extent to which Koko mastered and demonstrated language through the use of these signs is debated.

She certainly understood nouns, verbs, and adjectives, including abstract concepts like "good" and "fake", and was able to ask simple questions.

It is generally accepted that she did not use syntax or grammar, and that her use of language did not exceed that of a young human child.

However, she scored between 70 and 90 on various infant IQ scales, and some experts, including Mary Lee Jensvold, claim that Koko "[used] language the same way people do".


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