Have you heard about Koko the gorilla? Koko is a 44 year-old gorilla, She lives at a facility in San Francisco and knows 1,000 words in sign language. Oh, and Koko loves kittens.

Koko made news back in 1984 and was on the cover of National Geographic. Koko had asked (by sign language) for a kitten. That cat lived with Koko for close to 20 years but Koko was ready for a new baby.

This story amazes me. I'm amazed at the motherly instinct that Koko has toward these kittens and it also amazes me how gentle Koko is with these tiny ones.

From the YouTube description:

Koko got her birthday wish this July 4th — not only did one kitten come to visit, but a whole litter. Koko fell in love with one, and the other fell in love with her. Koko has adopted these two kittens into her family, and it has energized her world.

Not only have Koko's maternal and play instincts kicked in, but she is signing more to her caregivers and generating new content everyday that can be used by The Gorilla Foundation to create empathy fro great apes. This can have significant benefits to both endangered free-living great apes and those in captive environments, by encouraging the development of 2-way communication with their caregivers (which Koko has had since she was a baby).

You can get more information about Koko at koko.org

Here is something else that will surprise you about Koko. According to Wikipedia:

Koko is one of the few non-humans known to keep a pet. Researchers at The Gorilla Foundation said that Koko asked for a cat for Christmas in 1983. Ron Cohn, a biologist with the foundation, explained to the Los Angeles Times that when she was given a lifelike stuffed animal, she was less than satisfied. She did not play with it and continued to sign "sad." So on her birthday in July 1984, she was able to choose a kitten from a litter. Koko selected a gray, male Manx from a litter of abandoned kittens and named him "All Ball". Penny Patterson, who had custody of Koko and who had organized The Gorilla Foundation, wrote that Koko cared for the kitten as if it were a baby gorilla. Researchers said that she tried to nurse All Ball and was very gentle and loving. They believed that Koko's nurturing of the kitten and the skills she gained through playing with dolls would be helpful in Koko's learning how to nurture an offspring.[31][32]

In December of that same year, All Ball escaped from Koko's cage and was hit and killed by a car. Later, Patterson said that when she signed to Koko that All Ball had been killed, Koko signed "Bad, sad, bad" and "Frown, cry, frown, sad". Patterson also reported later hearing Koko making a sound similar to human weeping.[32]

In 1985, Koko was allowed to pick out two new kittens from a litter to be her companions. The animals she chose, she named "Lipstick" and "Smokey," were also Manxes.[33] Koko picked the name after seeing the tiny orange Manx for the first time. When her trainer asked the meaning of the name, Koko answered, Lips lipstick.Ms. Patterson was confused until she realized that Lips had a pink nose and mouth, unlike All Ball's gray markings. Koko picked Smoky's name because the kitten looks like a cat in one of the gorilla's books.

In 2015, for her 44th birthday, Koko was allowed to pick two new kittens, who were named "Ms Gray" (a blue gray tabby) and "Ms Black" (a brown tabby with black stripes). [34]