Research/Care Blog

Caregiver Corner: 'Koko on the Ball' by Lucas Slavik

Koko has always been

Date Added: 2006-01-26
I enter Koko's kitchen to visit. Usually I ask her if I can close her into one of her rooms and clean the vacant one, but today as soon as I entered her kitchen she greeted me with:


 Koko: Purr #

Koko points to the control panel that is used to close off one of her rooms for cleaning. Lights-off was originally used to communicate flipping a light switch on or off, but Koko has expanded its use to other contexts. She often uses lights-off to tell us to turn the TV on and off, open or close a window, and in this case, operate the switches that control a gate within her enclosure.

After closing off her room and cleaning, I return to her kitchen at 12:02 pm, two minutes after she normally gets her noon drink and supplements.

  Koko: Kiss#. Drink.
  Lucas: Time drink?
  Koko: Drink, drink, purr#.

Both Koko and Ndume are highly aware of the timing of specific activities scheduled in their day, down to the minute when it involves something going into their mouths!

# Note: In Koko's responses above, the pound symbol (#) after a word indicates that it is a vocalization by Koko; otherwise the word or phrase represents her response in American Sign Language.

Contact Us



The Gorilla Foundation /
1733 Woodside Rd., Suite 330
Redwood City, CA, 94061
1-800-ME-GO-APE (634-6273)

User login

Why become a member?

Our mission is to learn about gorillas by communicating with them, and apply our knowledge to advance great ape conservation, education, care and empathy.
facebook twitter instagram youtube 

Website design by 1185 Design and powered by TrevNet Media