Tag Archives: dr. penny patterson

Koko, the Gorilla Who Uses Sign-Language, Mourns the Death of Her Friend Robin Williams

In 2001, Robin Williams traveled to the headquarters of the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California after taking a personal interest in ape conservation.

While there, he met the famous gorilla Koko, who was taught American sign-language at a young age.

The two were made for each other. Koko quickly took a liking to Williams’ kind heart, and almost immediately he was one of the ape’s closest friends.

Koko kisses Williams’ hand during their first meeting. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the Gorilla Foundation)

When she met Williams, Koko had been going through a bout of depression following the death of another gorilla that had been her good friend.

At the same time, Williams was battling the issues of depression and addiction that plagued him throughout his life.

Williams made Koko laugh for the first time in six months, granting her requests to be tickled and letting her try on his glasses as the two unlikely friends bonded. It was obvious to anyone watching that Williams enjoyed the experience just as much as Koko did.

You can watch some video of the pair becoming friends below:

The meeting changed the lives of both man and ape alike:

“Not only did Robin cheer up Koko, the effect was mutual, and Robin seemed transformed,”

Koko’s caretaker Dr. Penny Patterson said while reflecting on the meeting.

So when staff at the Gorilla Foundation used sign language to tell Koko of Williams’ passing, it was no surprise that she was visibly upset.

She sat hunched over, her bottom lip quivering as she mourned the passing of her friend.

Koko was visibly upset by the news of Williams' passing. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the Gorilla Foundation)
Koko was visibly upset by the news of Williams’ passing. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the Gorilla Foundation)

Koko’s bond with Williams and her grief at his passing serve as a powerful reminder that a truly kind heart can transcend all differences. Even the differences between man and animal.

Read the original story from the Daily Mail here.

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