She changed humanity's understanding of animal nature — Koko the gorilla died in her sleep at age 46, The Gorilla Foundation announced on Thursday. Shortly after her birth at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971, Koko was selected to partner with psychologist Francine Patterson for a language research project. Koko and Patterson together taught the world about gorillas' capacity for language and empathy. Koko famously learned sign language and how to play the recorder. "Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world," The Gorilla Foundation said in a statement.Bettmann/Bettmann Archive Bettmann/Bettmann Archive Bettmann/Bettmann Archive Robert Madden/National Geographic/Getty Images
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