In Brief

Benedict Cumberbatch's latest admirer is a 280lb gorilla

Koko 'loves English men' and has a 'big crush' on the Sherlock actor, says documentary producer

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It is no secret that Benedict Cumberbatch has a fair few admirers, but none have gone as ape about him as his latest conquest.

It seems the Sherlock actor's charms have won over a 280lb western lowland gorilla named Koko, who "has a big crush on him".

"She loves English men," says Bridget Appleby, the producer of the documentary Koko: The Gorilla Who Talks to People.

Koko, who was raised with humans and communicates through sign language, developed a love for English accents during sittings for renowned artist Richard Stone, who volunteered to draw her portrait to raise money for gorilla conservation work in Africa.

She was lent to Dr Penny Patterson as a baby in 1971, when the academic was studying for her doctoral research, and the two have been together ever since.

She's not a pet," says Patterson. "But the fact that Koko can love, that we can love each other even though we're different species, really gets people thinking deeply about life. And that's what we need to do."

Koko fell for Cumberbatch's voice after watching DVDs of his work, Appleby told the Radio Times.

"What can be so startling is that because she's been brought up with people, she has similar mannerisms, similar gestures, and you do feel that there's a familiarity that you wouldn't normally expect to have with an animal," she added.

Dr Patterson claims Koko can understand more than 1,000 signs, after starting with symbols for "eat", "drink", and "more", and uses them to construct phrases of her own.

A video taken last October shows the gorilla being introduced to a litter of kittens and apparently using sign to say: "These are my babies." [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"95853","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

The central issue of whether apes can learn sign language is in dispute, with experts claiming that results of studies are inconclusive.

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