Koko, a captive gorilla that learned sign language and raised a kitten, demonstrated to the world the intellectual and emotional capacity of her kind. She died in 2018 at the age of 46, leaving a legacy of children’s books, documentaries, scientific papers, and unresolved questions about animal rights.
Koko was a western lowland gorilla, a subspecies of these majestic great apes. Her wild relatives range across several countries in eastern Africa, but they are declining rapidly. These creatures and their very human-like attributes could soon disappear forever.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What is the Western Lowland Gorilla?
The western lowland gorilla is a critically endangered subspecies of western gorilla.
Its scientific name is Gorilla gorilla ssp. gorilla and its ancestors are thought to have diverged from that of the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla ssp. diehli) some 18,000 years ago, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Other gorilla subspecies include the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla, the subspecies featured in the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist.
The western lowland gorilla is slightly smaller than other gorilla subspecies, and has a grey-brown coat and an auburn chest. Their