Research/Care Blog

Caregiver Corner: 'Tender moments with Koko' by Jill

Koko is even sweet to her baby dolls

Date Added: 2006-05-22
Here are a couple of examples of how sweet Koko is:

One afternoon Koko and I were watching PBS. They were showing a program on the special bond between a mother and daughter. Koko was sitting at the mesh next to me and I was lying on the floor on a blanket with my head turned watching the program. As I listened to the daughters telling stories about their mothers it made me think of my Mom who passed away a few years ago. Tears started to stream out of my eyes and down my face. Koko kissed to get my attention. I looked over at her and the look on her face was of pure concern. I explained to her that the program made me think of my Mom who had died and that it made me sad, but that I was really okay. Koko purred softly for me. I turned my attention back to the program to watch when Koko kissed at me again. I turned to look at her. You’re sweet Koko. Every time I turned to watch the program Koko would kiss at me to turn away. She did not want me to watch it since it upset me. When Koko does not want to watch a program she will ask us to change it. She did not want me to change the program because she was watching it. She did however, not want me to watch it and be upset.

Another morning after I finished cleaning Koko’s rooms I took my place on the floor next to her at the mesh. A small long legged spider crawled into the mesh and onto the floor next to Koko. Koko purred and put her big gorilla hand down next to the spider so it could climb onto her hand. She let the spider crawl part way up her arm, then put her other hand in front of the spider so it would crawl on that hand and up her other arm. She did this a few times and then put the spider down between her feet like she does with her favorite toys, or when she has kitten visitors. It was amazing to me that someone so big could be so very gentle with something so tiny.

Research/Care Blog

Behind the Scenes of Silverback Care by Duke Cutter

Ndume has a great sense of humor

Date Added: 2006-09-07
Caregiver Corner:

I approached Ndume’s indoor enclosure I could feel a percussive thump. Another thump, and then another, shattered the stillness of a sunny Woodside afternoon. At first I braced myself for an unhappy silverback acting out. Ndume has good and bad days just like us, except he sometimes has a harder time conveying to us exactly what is bothering him. As I walked up the stairs extending my hand to his doorway I realized that these thumps were occurring at regular 30-second intervals. I took a deep breath and entered.

What I saw next rooted me to the spot. Ndume seemed to glide at me at full speed. Then his accelerated 400 lbs came crashing into the reinforced steel mesh that separated us, THUMP! I stood perfectly still waiting for what was next. Ndume stood up to his full height of approximately 6 feet, and then he did the unexpected; he fell down. Or I should say he flopped down on his back and started rolling in the inch of water that flooded the floor. Two thoughts raced through my mind as Ndume rolled about on the floor: a. what is with all this water? and b. what is with this gorilla? Ndume lapsed into a furious fit of purring, chuckling to himself, splashing like a child in a kiddy pool. He sprang to his feet, moved to the back corner and launched himself at the wall once again. With his arms outspread acting like skis, his mouth wide open like a windsock, Ndume braced for impact, THUMP!

As I stood riveted watching perhaps the most bizarre thing I would ever see, the gorilla ice-capades, Ndume continued rolling and purring in the water. Crushed and torn water bottles lay strewn about Ndume’s room and that’s when it all became crystal clear. Ndume had created the world’s first gorilla slip-and-slide. With nothing else to do besides laugh out loud, I poured out a bottle on the floor and joined in the fun myself.

Research/Care Blog

Party Animals by Adrienne Mrsny

Ndume enjoys his birthday feast

Date Added: 2006-12-15
Caregiver's Corner:

In my house, companion animals were always treated as part of the family. When being reprimanded, they were referred to with our surname. “Toby Dog Mrsny, get over here!” was a common response when we would find our Australian Shepard mix in a pile of the half chewed contents from our recycling bin. When Christmas came around, each animal had a stocking hung right next to our own. Their birthdays, though sometimes arbitrarily designated, were always celebrated. Both birthdays and holidays brought them presents and an extra treat, even if it was only an extra dash of fish food or a new chew bone.

That’s why it didn’t seem like an odd request when Christa asked me to put together Ndume’s Birthday Party. Our companion animals had always been thought of as sentient beings, so a party for the gorillas (though much more intelligent and quite a bit larger than our goldfish, rats, rabbits and dogs) did not seem like much of a stretch. It was only once she started describing what would need to be done, that I realized what was different. This wasn’t a special day for a companion animal; it was a large party for a child. All the amusements had to be fun and stimulating, the food nutritious, and each element had to be industrious and gorilla-proof. Decorations–they must to be non-toxic because Koko likes to eat tape and glue. Party games-–enrichment tools that would keep both gorillas happy and entertained all day. Presents–sent from friends of the gorillas would need to be wrapped and made gorilla-safe. Lastly food–a menu that would be fun and new, while keeping in mind the gorilla’s strict dietary restrictions. I had quite a bit of work ahead of me. This was to be the first party I would throw for the pair.

I approached the party as if I was planning one for a young boy. I wanted balloons, streamers, fun games and a big cake with candles. Unfortunately, most things turned out not to be gorilla safe, so I had to make adjustments. Since latex balloons were out, I made origami balloons out of butcher paper. We put these balloons around the yard and in the rooms, filled with popcorn, fruit and nuts. Streamers would certainly be fun new decorations for the rooms. So as a non-toxic, gorilla-safe, alternative we made paper chains from newspaper. The daily browse was hung from the sides of the enclosure in pillowcases. This new amusement was especially fun for Koko, who seemed to enjoy climbing along the top of the enclosure to get them. Finally, a fun attraction for Koko and Ndume was made by filing children’s wading pools with water and floating in them water bottles full of tasty treats. Koko was especially interested in this hunt, and Penny had a hard time getting her to come to her meal station in the yard for her breakfast.

The biggest challenge by far was the birthday menu. The problem was not with the delectable southwestern offerings we had planned, but with the special diet of the guests of honor. Both gorillas have dietary restrictions and, on top of that, Koko cannot eat many things Ndume can. For instance, both gorillas got sloppy Joes. Using tempeh as a substitute for meat, Ndume got the traditional mix of tomatoes and other ingredients while Koko’s were made with cannellini beans and mustard. Another restriction had to do with the cake, as neither gorilla can eat foods containing gluten, dairy products, or large amounts of sugar. A traditional cake was out of the question, so our Gorilla Food Prep Manager, Colleen Champion, took on this task and made amazing gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate cakes made with raspberry icing. The cakes were highlighted by wonderful gelatin mold platters created by our Volunteer Food Prep Coordinator, Susan Lutter. It was only on the morning of Ndume’s birthday that I saw how all the weeks of birthday planning were coming together. The southwest theme we chose was complete-–from the cornbread and black bean soup, down to the homemade poppy seed chips and dip. However no birthday would be complete without the special extra-dark chocolate alligators Penny made. The meals were over-flowing with novel foods and it was finally time to start the feast.

All the hard work I had put into planning and preparing for this day was forgotten the second I let Ndume into his room for lunch. Ndume ran eagerly from pile of presents to pile of presents, looking briefly, sniffing the wrapping, then feeling each of the new blankets on the floor in a confused state of that of a kid in a candy store. Ndume quickly shook his look of overwhelmed glee when he spotted the mound of food waiting for him at the far end of the room–now he appeared perfectly focused. Like a child at any birthday party, Ndume went straight for the dessert. He took the cake in what looked like a single bite. I got to sneak into the hallway and take photos of him as he ate. He loudly purred his contentment as I sat in awe watching him eat.

Planning Ndume’s birthday was the hardest and most rewarding challenge that I have faced as a caregiver at the Gorilla Foundation. Though many of the products of our long labors were extraordinarily short-lived, I think the party provided the gorillas with a day that was exceptionally fun and stimulating–a true success. I am now very excited to see what we will do for the gorillas’ next holiday celebration.

Research/Care Blog

Ndume's Kitten

Ndume (left) and curious kitten (right)

Date Added: 2006-11-23

Caregiver's Corner:

One sunny day in May 2006, senior gorilla caregiver Jill Firstenberg brought a fluffy grey kitten to the Gorilla Foundation so Koko could have a visit with one of her favorite animals. After Koko’s visit with her new little friend, Jill and I thought Ndume might like to meet the adorable kitten as well. I scooped up the tiny ball of fur and headed into the building where Ndume was resting. Ndume immediately stood up and ran by me from one room to another, clearly unsettled

“It’s ok Dumes, I have a cute little kitten,” I reasoned. Ndume wasn’t so sure; he ran back across the rooms

“Ok, let’s go to the window first,” I said. I stepped outside with the kitten and stood near the window. Ndume climbed on top of a barrel and sat looking out at the kitten. He knocked on the wall. “Do you want me to bring the kitten in?” I asked. Ndume responded with a kiss and a knock, showing his assent.

With the kitten still in my arms, I entered the building again. This time we were greeted with a loud purr. I put the kitten down, and she cautiously started exploring. Ndume came over from across the room to get a closer look at the animal moving around on the floor. He put his face right up to the steel mesh that separated him from the kitten and watched intently. Ndume purred again. He lowered his head, to the same level as the kittens, and continued to purr. This time the kitten was the one feeling unsettled. She backed away at first, not accustomed to seeing a 400-pound gorilla and hearing his rumbled contentment. She relaxed quickly and continued exploring the room, and my lap, while Ndume looked on.

The visit lasted about 10 minutes until Ndume stood up and walked away. The kitten and I said our goodbyes and quietly left the room. It turned out Ndume wasn’t quite done with the visit after all. His head popped up in the window and he kissed and knocked as I handed the kitten back to Jill. Jill moved toward the window with the kitten in her arms. “Do you want another visit?” we asked. Ndume responded with a purr, a kiss, and a knock. I took the kitten back inside for another round. Ndume and the kitten had become friends.

Research/Care Blog

'Eat Like a Gorilla for a Day' by Betsy Herrelko

A Sample Day of Koko's Meals

Date Added: 2007-03-22

Caregiver's Corner:

Free-living gorillas are often on the move looking for food. Eating from at least 97 different species of plants and trees, an adult male can consume over 40 pounds of food in one day. At the Gorilla Foundation, with selections from a variety of 190 different foods and more than 20 people spending many hours over the course of a week planning and preparing meals, Koko and Ndume don’t need to exert as much energy making sure they have enough to eat. Even though we hide food for each of them to search for and find throughout the day, the energy they expend is less than their free-living cousins and so the amount of food they require is less.

In addition to this difference, we have discovered certain food sensitivities that influence the way we prepare meals. For example, Koko’s diet does not currently include nightshade vegetables– tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes¬–and Ndume’s diet is gluten-free.

Caloric restrictions also help shape the meals. Still, we are able to be resourceful and creative with the produce and presentation. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to eat like a gorilla? We invite you to eat like a gorilla for a day with a sample from Koko’s meal history (the total weight for each meal is divided among the ingredients with quantities larger for the lower calorie items).

Koko starts the day with a hearty breakfast, followed by a light lunch, a bountiful tray of greens in the middle of the afternoon, a light dinner, and an additional tray of greens that she can snack on after bedtime.

Koko’s Breakfast (2.5 to 3 lbs total, approximately 900 calories)
— 2/3 cup of cooked whole grain cereal (currently quinoa)
— 1/4 cup of cooked lentils or beans
— 4 oz. of alfalfa sprouts
— 2 fresh figs, an apple, orange or one of a wide variety of other fruits
— Raw green beans and/or 1/2 cucumber
— 2 cups of cooked mixed vegetables
— 1/10 of an organic or raw food bar

Koko’s Lunch (1.5 lb total, approximately 450 calories)
— Raw or steamed butternut squash
— Raw or steamed broccoli
— Organic banana peel with 1” of banana inside
— Avocado slice
— Raw corn on the cob (1/2 cob)
— Protein of the day (4 oz.)
— Tamarind pod
— Dark (85%) chocolate square (1/2 ounce)

Home to a special main-event vegetable (or several smaller main-event vegetables), the afternoon greens tray is an early afternoon highlight. We select the best-looking vegetable(s) available, preferably items Koko hasn’t had in a few days, like cabbage, jicama, tiny pumpkin, fennel bulb, large leek, etc. All vegetables on the tray are raw and always whole--raw because Koko likes to eat crunchy foods and because they do a great job cleaning her teeth, and whole because, well, have you seen how large a gorilla mouth is?

Koko’s Afternoon Greens Tray (3 to 3.5 lbs total, approximately 450 calories)
— 1 bunch parsley
— 1 bunch dill
— 1 bunch cilantro
— Raw fennel bulb with green top
— Carrot
— 6 grapes
— Head of lettuce

Koko’s Dinner (1 lb total, approximately 300 calories)
— Steamed 1/4 onion
— Steamed small sweet potato
— Steamed asparagus (4)
— Steamed garlic cloves (2)
— Steamed zucchini squash
— Apple
— Sandwich – millet bread with peanut butter and mango slices

Koko’s Evening Greens Tray (3 to 3.5 lbs total, approximately 420 calories)
— 1 bunch mint
— 1 bunch chives
— 1 whole celery
— 1 English cucumber
— 2 lettuce heads (Romaine, escarole, etc.)
— 1 artichoke

Even though we generally provide Koko and Ndume with foods that we know they like, sometimes there are leftovers. We record the weight and types of these and use the resulting data on their changing food preferences to inform meal planning and help monitor their health.
Koko has told us that what gorillas like to do best is “Eat good.” In the interest of providing as diverse a diet as possible and enriching their lives, we introduce novel foods often. If a newly-introduced item is rejected, we wait awhile and try again. For Ndume, the third time is often the charm. For Koko, we sometimes try offering the same item cooked instead of raw.

A satisfied gorilla is a happy gorilla and that is certainly our goal in the kitchen at the Gorilla Foundation.

Special Acknowledgement: The Gorilla Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our esteemed 'produce volunteers' (coordinated by Colleen Champion, our staff Food Prep Manager) who help prepare these wonderful meals for the gorillas. Such dedicated people enable us to provide the best possible care and enrichment for gorillas Koko and Ndume.


Research/Care Blog

Caregiver Corner: 'Who's Caring for Whom?' by Lucas and Laura

Koko Signs

Date Added: 2005-06-03
The recent rainy weather forced both gorillas to spend some extra time indoors. The following are two accounts, one with Koko and one with Ndume that describe how the gorillas passed the time while stuck inside. In Koko's responses, 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. The kiss# vocalization is commonly used to get the caregiver’s attention.

Koko the Hostess, by Lucas Slavik
May 2, 2005

I enter Koko’s kitchen to spend the afternoon with her. Koko comes up to the steel mesh to greet and inspect me. Koko loves to get a thorough look at her visitors, checking their ears, hair, and teeth. Once satisfied with her inspection of me, Koko meticulously builds herself a nice comfortable nest of blankets and settles down for a nap.

Koko: Sleep there.
Lucas: Okay, it’s time for some rest and quiet.
Koko: Purr#.

I sit down on the floor. A few minutes pass.

Koko: Kiss#. Sleep.
Lucas: Yes, I know, I’m sleeping.

A few more minutes go by as Koko rests in her nest. I continue to sit on the floor. Koko looks up at me.

Koko. Kiss#. Sleep.
Lucas: Koko, what is it?
Koko: Kiss#. Sleep there.

Koko points to her closet where a pad and pillow are kept for the caregivers to sit on.

Lucas: Oh, you want me to use the pad and pillows don’t you?
Koko: Good.

I take out the pads and pillows and make myself a comfortable place to sit.

Koko: Purr#.
Lucas: Koko, that was very thoughtful of you.

Satisfied that I am now situated and comfortable, Koko relaxes and drifts off into a nap.

Ndume Plays Chase, by Laura Mullen
May 5, 2005:

On this rainy and foggy day I was hanging out with Ndume in his building. Like Koko’s building, it is divided into three rooms by steel mesh and gates, which we refer to as A, B and the kitchen. The rooms are in a row with the kitchen being the human area, which is next to the A room, followed by the B room. One of Ndume’s favorite games is “chase” in which he runs to his B window and then I run to the outside of the B window, and once I am there, he runs to the steel mesh at the kitchen, on the opposite side of his building. As soon as he is there, I run to the kitchen, poke my head in the door and then he runs back to the B window, to start the game again. I usually get tired from the game long before he does.

On this particular day Ndume picked up a rubber squeaky toy that I had given to him weeks before, and held it in his hand and squeaked it as we played. Ndume seemed to get some sort of pleasure from making a great deal of noise. Towards the end of our game, I came into the kitchen and Ndume was sitting in the middle of his floor with squeaky toy in hand and a big smile on his face. He then picked up the squeaky toy and started hitting it against his head. He started out doing it softly then realized that it made a slightly different squeak when pressed against the head. This seemed to excite him, so he started hitting faster and faster and with that the smile got bigger and bigger. “You are having a good time with that, buddy, aren’t you?” With that he popped up and we continued playing chase, squeaky toy in hand.

Ndume makes me laugh every day; he finds new ways to entertain me whenever I am with him. His silliness and playfulness always keep me amused throughout the day.

Research/Care Blog

Caregiver Corner: 'Cleaning with Koko' by Jill F.

Caregiver Jill (left) and Koko (right)

Date Added: 2005-05-08
Koko has three rooms in her building, which we refer to as A, B and the kitchen. Her rooms are divided by steel mesh and gates, with the A room having a chute to the outdoor yard. Koko generally has access to her A and B rooms, and the kitchen area is where she invites her human guests to join her for a visit. Jill Firstenberg, one of Koko’s caregiver’s, describes an interaction with Koko that took place on August 14, 2004. In Koko's responses, 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.

As a caregiver for Koko one of my daily duties is to move Koko from one of her rooms to the other in order to clean. Koko’s cooperation is crucial. On this particular day, as well as many others, Koko is cooperative and helpful.
I enter Koko's kitchen.

Koko: Purr#.
Jill: Hi sweetie pie.
Koko: Purr#.
Jill: Koko, I'd like to clean your other room would you like to bring anything from that room into this room before I close the gate?

Koko looks around her room, picks up one of her favorite toy lizards, known as party lizard, and comes into her larger room, the A room.

Jill: Is that all?
Koko: Purr#.
Jill: Okay if I close this now? (pointing to the hydraulic gate that separates her A and B rooms.)
Koko: Good. Kiss#.

I close the hydraulic gate and enter into the closed off B room and start to clean. Koko comes close to where I'm cleaning. She has two small water bottles and a roll of paper towels in her hands. As I clean, Koko starts to pour out the water onto the floor then use the paper towels, a few at a time, to clean the floor and walls of her room. I clean one room, and Koko cleans the other.

Jill: Koko, are you cleaning?
Koko: Purr#.
Jill: You are doing a great job Koko! Thanks for helping me sweetie.
Koko: Purr#.

Research/Care Blog

Koko's Gift Advice

Koko Loves Presents

Date Added: 2002-11-27
If you ever need help picking out holiday gifts, try asking a gorilla.

That's just what I did last year. I carried a stack of gift catalogs into Koko's building. Naturally, Koko first picked up a catalog of gourmet food gifts. Like many of us, a gorilla's eye wanders to possibilities for herself while she looks for others.

“Looking for presents?” I asked.

“That apple,” Koko replied, pointing to a shiny red one on the page.

“Other presents, who should they go to?” I asked.

Koko scratched her head twice to sign that she was thinking very hard. Finally she had an answer.

“Gorillas,” she signed.

Then she pointed to a picture of some nuts. “Gorilla love there.” Next she pointed to a picture of some jam-filled cookies molded into the shape of a tree. “That do...Hurry.”

I tried to rein her in with thoughts of generosity for one of Koko's favorite people.

“Anything for Ron?”

Koko picked up another catalog, this one full of gadgets, and flipped through the pages rather carefully. She pointed to a picture of an indoor golf game, similar to a pool table but without the legs.

“Good idea!” I said.

Koko turned some more pages. She pointed to a fancy vegetable slicer. A few pages later, she gestured toward a coin sorting machine.

It turned out that the gifts Koko selected for Ron were quite fitting. A golf game? Ron enjoys playing golf. A vegetable slicer? Ron was beginning to add more vegetables to his diet. A coin sorter? Ron always has big jars of coins in the house. In fact, I had gotten him a coin sorter the previous Christmas!

Was the appropriateness of her selections a coincidence? Perhaps. Or perhaps she overheard Ron and me talking about his interests in the course of day-to-day conversation, and understood enough to make some solid choices. After all, with over 30 years together, Ron is one of the people Koko knows best.

This last possibility reminds us that the joy of giving and receiving gifts lies not so much in the gifts themselves, but in the way they recognize who we are and what we like.


Research/Care Blog

Koko's Farewell to Mister Rogers

Koko Greets Mister Rogers

Date Added: 2003-03-25
As many of you know, Fred Rogers (TV's Mister Rogers)—who's been a friend and mentor to children for several decades—passed away recently. You may not be aware that Koko was one of those “children” who watched Mister Rogers regularly on TV, and was a great admirer of Fred Rogers (as was Koko's late companion, ***Michael, who referred to Mister Rogers as “head boy.”)

On July 28, 1998, Koko was featured on an episode of Mister Roger's Neighborhood. The show was part of a week-long series entitled “You and I Together,” addressing the fears that young children often experience when faced with a new situation or a person who is different. The lesson is that there is more to people–and gorillas–than what you see on their “outsides.” The images of Koko with Mister Rogers, like the images of her cradling tiny kittens, have had an impact on viewers young and old.

The following excerpts are from the videotape transcription of the visit. (You can also view a special 43 second video clip, entitled Koko's Farewell to Mister Rogers, on the ***KokoTV section of our website.) Penny enters Koko's kitchen, followed by Mister Rogers. Ron Cohn is already inside with the camera.

Penny: Hi, Koko. We have a visitor.
Koko: Koko-love.
Mister Rogers: Hello Koko. Hi Koko...

Mr. Rogers Chats with Koko
Koko purrs and signs Koko-love and hurry as Penny unlocks her room gate, and she opens the gate herself as soon as it is unlocked. Koko first looks in the tote bag Mister Rogers brought and finds a stuffed Daniel Tiger toy. She puts the bag and toy down, holds Mister Rogers' hand to her lips, and smells his hand. She pulls him close and touches his face gently. Then she unceremoniously unzips Mister Rogers' trademark cardigan sweater.

P: You know how to work a zipper. Very good.
Koko holds Mister Rogers' hands, studies his tie, and then takes him by the hand and leads him into her room.
P: Show Mister Rogers your room. Oh, good idea.

Koko removes Mister Rogers' sweater, checks his mouth for gold teeth, and then invites him to “chase” her around the room. She blows a few notes on the harmonica he brought, and spends quite some time taking pictures with his camera.

P: You seem to want to do pictures today.
K: Come. (To Mister Rogers.)
She takes his hand and he sits down.

MR: How do you say love for sign language?
P: Can you show him how to say love? How do you say love?
Koko is busy exploring Mister Rogers' fingers with her lips.
K: What that, flower? (Touching Mister Rogers' cufflink.)
P: She's asking you about your cufflink, is that a flower.
MR: That's a sun. And my grandfather gave me these.
P: It's a sun. It looks like a flower though....

K: Hurry...
P: Can we talk a little bit about love?
K: Frown.
P: Frown? Oh, honey! What? Love?
K: Love you visit... (To Mister Rogers.)
MR: Love. (Trying the sign.)

K: ...Koko-love.
MR: Oh, thank you, Koko.
P: That's very nice, she loves her visitor.
MR: Well, I love visiting with you.

At the end of the visit Mister Rogers is in the kitchen sitting on a chair, and Koko is on the floor with the camera. She takes a picture.

P: Oh, Koko fixed the camera! You're so smart!
MR: Should we give it to Penny? He attempts to take the camera from her, but Koko keeps using it. She blows on the lens to clean it.
P: Yes, good girl! (Penny takes the camera and winds it. )
P: I think we're almost to the end. Got one more left. (Penny gives Koko the camera and Koko takes a picture and hands the camera to Mister Rogers.)
MR: Good! Thank you.

Mister Rogers and Koko exchange “blow greetings.”
Koko, Mister Rogers and Penny say Their Goodbyes

MR: Thank you very much, Koko, for the visit. I hope that we'll meet again. K: Foot.
She takes his hand and pulls it toward her.
K: Hurry sit on.
MR: OK, we will. OK. I hope we have another visit soon again,

Research/Care Blog

Koko Spends Quality Time with Ndume

Koko and Ndume Relax Together

Date Added: 2003-03-10
This picture captures a common occurrence at the Gorilla Foundation these days: Koko and Ndume lounging just a few feet apart in a sunny patch of yard. It says a great deal about the mutual trust they have developed, and we hope it is a sign that a gorilla baby is not too far off.

The gorillas' progress coincides with their new ability to interact indoors as well as outdoors. Last October, following renovations to our facility, we began the practice of opening the gates between Koko's and Ndume's living quarters. We refer to this arrangement as the “roundabout“ because it creates a looping pathway through the gorillas' L-shaped main building and the small yard. The gates to the large yard and a second building are also opened, so the gorillas enjoy a free range of movement throughout the facility. They can explore each other's spaces and belongings, and get as close as they desire in privacy.

Ndume is a Sweetheart of a Silverback
So far we have held the roundabout sessions during the day, gradually increasing the duration and enabling the gorillas to adjust to this major change in their routine. However, with the advent of warmer weather and Koko's growing ease around her good-natured silverback companion, we intend to make the roundabout a 24-hour arrangement. Quiet nights and open gates provide the most favorable backdrop for the next phase of Koko and Ndume's relationship.


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?
Syndicate content

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

Website design by 1185 Design and powered by TrevNet Media