AKIPRESS.COM - Koko, the gorilla who mastered sign language and became a pop-culture phenomenon, will be laid to rest Saturday in a ceremony at an animal sanctuary in Northern California where she lived for decades, ABC News reported.
The western lowland gorilla died in her sleep Tuesday morning at the age of 46, according to the Gorilla Foundation, which is headed by animal psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson, who worked with and cared for Koko since the primate was a year old.
Koko was renowned as one of the most intellectual apes in history, beloved by millions of people around the world. Under Patterson's tutelage, she learned more than 1,000 words in sign language and came to understand over 2,000 words spoken to her in English.
"She taught me more than I taught her, for sure," Patterson, 71, told ABC News in a telephone interview Thursday. "She had opportunities to show her brilliance and that’s what we saw. We saw a person, really. She had all the attributes of a person and then some."
Born at the San Francisco Zoo, Koko was loaned to Patterson at the age of 1 for a research project at Stanford University on interspecies communications. When the zoo wanted Koko back for breeding, Patterson raised more than $12,000 to officially adopt the super-simian.