Koko, a western lowland gorilla born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971, became internationally known for her intelligence and sign language abilities. She met many famous people during her lifetime, including Betty White, Robin Williams, William Shatner, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jane Goodall. She even had the opportunity to meet a celebrity who was arguably one of her favorite people: Mister Rogers.
Koko had watched Fred Rogers on television ever since she was a baby, and when she got the chance to meet him in 1998, it was love at first sight. Koko hugged him, helped him untie his shoes (something Mister Rogers did at the beginning of every episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood), and taught him how to sign “I love you.” It was an awe-inspiring moment as Koko and Mister Rogers sat on the floor together, with the legendary TV host cradled in Koko’s massive arms. It was a display of interspecies affection, with Koko showing Mister Rogers the same love and care that he had shown to so many people over the years.
Koko also met Betty White in 2004. The beloved star enjoyed the meeting so much that she even wrote about Koko in her book. Robin Williams was also among the privileged celebrities to meet the lovable gorilla, and he described the experience as “awesome and unforgettable.” During their time together, Koko and Williams enjoyed making silly faces and tickling each other. Koko also examined Robin’s wallet, just to make sure he was who he said he was.
Crazy about Koko:
- According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, most gorillas in the wild can live for 30 to 40 years. In the care of humans, they can live into their 50s. .
- Koko understood around 2,000 words of spoken English.
- Koko passed away in 2018, aged 46.