Celebrities pour their hearts out on social media after Koko, the gorilla, dies at 46

Famous western lowland gorilla, who spent intimate visits with Robin Williams, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, died in her sleep.

                            Celebrities pour their hearts out on social media after Koko, the gorilla, dies at 46
(Source:Getty Images)

Koko, the famous western lowland gorilla, died at the age of 46 years. On Thursday, the caretakers of Koko at the Gorilla Foundation, announced that the pop-culture phenomenon died in her sleep on Tuesday morning at their preserve in Woodside, California. The organization's head, Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson, spoke to ABC News. Koko's remarkable sign-language ability and motherly attachment to her guests won hearts worldwide. 

"Koko's capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions," the Gorilla Foundation said in its statement.

"I'm totally aware of how blessed and magical my life has been with her," an emotional Patterson, 71, told ABC News. "She was perfect. That's my sense. She taught me so much." 

Koko was born on July 4, 1971, at the San Francisco Zoo. She was loaned to Patterson for a research project when she was just a one-year-old. Patterson, who is also the animal psychologist and the one who taught Koko sign language, made her the subject of her research on interspecies communications and ultimately adopted her officially.

While she was named Hanabi-ko, Japanese for "Fireworks Child", she became popular worldwide by her nickname, Koko.

"Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed," the Gorilla Foundation said in a statement.

The famed simian stayed with Patterson until her death after being touted as one of the most intelligent primates of all time, with millions of people around the world showering her with love.

"And she loves 'em back, even though we're pretty flawed as a species," Patterson said.

In her living years, Koko met more celebrities than you and I ever will, combined

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio was able to befriend the ape. Once, she grabbed actor William Shatner by the testicles after he repeatedly told her he loved her and entered her cage. She had comedian and actor Robin Williams in splits when she raised his shirt and started tickling him.

"To look into the eyes of a 300-pound gorilla and have her tell you what she's thinking is truly humbling," actress Betty White said after visiting Koko in 2012.

Koko played bass guitar with 'Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea, back in 2016. After he handed his bass and she plucked it, Flea remarked: "This is the greatest thing that could happen. This is a day that I will never forget in my life."