Koko the gorilla recently celebrated her 44th birthday and to observe the occasion she was given a very special gift. Famous for her knowledge of American Sign Language, the gorilla was presented with a box of kittens and she was allowed to choose two as pets. The remaining cats were given up for adoption to good homes. Koko’s first cat “All Ball’ was given to her back in 1984 after she signed that she wanted a cat and shared that she was unsatisfied with a toy one.
Koko resides at the Gorilla Foundation in Redwood City, California, with her trainer Francine Patterson. According to Patterson, Koko communicates with her trainers using over 1,000 “Gorilla Sign Language” signs and she can understand 2,000 English words.
When Koko’s first cat, All Ball, died, Koko cried and signed “Sleep cat” when she was passed the news.
The story of Koko and her baby kittens, being unable to have her own, is covered in a story book called ‘Koko’s Kitten’,that was written by Francine Patterson, the gorilla’s caretaker/ trainer. The illustrations presented in the book were taken by photographer Ronald H. Cohn. You can check out the book or purchase your own copy of it on Amazon.com.