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Film

When Robin Williams became best friends with a gorilla

One of the greatest comedic geniuses of our time, Robin Williams will always be remembered for his blend of moving optimism and witty humour in definitive films such as Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting and Good Morning, Vietnam among many others. His work is an inspiration to multiple generations and he is cited as an influence by top comedians.

Rightly referred to as a “national treasure”, Williams’ tragic demise shocked the entire world and sent many fans into mourning. When it was revealed that the man who had managed to make so many people laugh with his comedy had been distressed enough to take his own life, most people did not know how to process such a sad and contradictory event.

Throughout his life, Williams was an animal lover who was known to be very fond of dogs. However, the late comedian actually bonded with many different animals ranging from cows (on Patch Adams) to gorillas. After getting a cow valve transplant, he even said that he felt guilty eating beef because he felt like he was “one of them”.

In arguably the most heartwarming Robin Williams story, one of his best animal friends was actually a gorilla named Koko whom Williams managed to cheer up after the loss of her mate when he met her at the Gorilla Foundation. She is famous for understanding and using signals used in the American Sign Language, actually managing to establish a deep connection with Williams who was completely enamoured.

Calling it an unforgettable experience, Williams explained how his time with Koko made him realise that the work of conservationists is vitally important: “Koko used sign language to ask me to play with her. We shared interspecies laughter,” he said. “I realised how important the work of the Gorilla Foundation is for the future of Koko and her species.”

According to Koko’s mentor, Dr. Penny Patterson, the gorilla was extremely sad when she was told about Williams’ death and had apparently used the sign language equivalent of “cry” to articulate how she was feeling. Patterson added that the animal was drawn to Williams’ “warm heart” and could even recognise him in his film roles.

Watch a video of Robin Williams hanging out with Koko the gorilla below.