MISSION: To bring interspecies communication to the public, in order to save gorillas from extinction, and inspire our children to create a sustainable future for
all great apes.
The Gorilla Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to the preservation, protection and well-being of gorillas through interspecies communication research and education. The foundation was established in 1976 and is best known for its groundbreaking work with two western lowland gorillas, Koko and Michael, who learned to use a variant of American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with caregivers and others in their environment.
This research, known collectively as Project Koko, has become the longest-running interspecies communication study in history, and the only one involving gorillas. The results are published in numerous research papers, books and videos that can be found in the Gorilla Foundation's Bibliography.
During the past few decades, gorillas as a species have become critically endangered in Africa, and the Gorilla Foundation has correspondingly adjusted its focus to apply our interspecies communication research to raise awareness about the need for gorilla conservation and optimal captive care — as relfected in the following Top Initiatives.
THE TEAM (Staff and Board)
||Who is Koko?
Penny Patterson, a young graduate student in psychology at Stanford,
first saw a tiny, undernourished baby gorilla named Hanabi-Ko
at the San Francisco Zoo, she had little inkling that the sickly
ape would become her constant companion - and the subject of
the longest continuous experiment ever undertaken to teach language
to another species. But within a year, Project Koko was underway,
and in two weeks the gorilla was using correct signed gestures
for food, drink, and more. Today, decades later,
Koko - the world's most renowned gorilla - is drawing on a vocabulary
of more than 1,000 words.
||Who is Penny?
Penny Patterson received a degree in Psychology at the University
of Illinois and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Stanford.
She is now President and Research Director of The Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org,
a member of the Board of Consultants at the Center for Cross
Cultural Communication in Washington, D.C., and is the Editor-in-Chief
of Gorilla, the journal of The Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org.
Note: Psychology runs in the Patterson family: Penny's father,
Dr. C.H. Patterson, who has been a key supporter and source
of inspiration for Penny and TGF, is also a world-renowned professor
and author in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy - see
his insightful website.
||Who is Ron?
Dr. Ron Cohn is the Co-Founder, Vice President
and principal photo-video documentatarian for Project Koko.
He is responsible for most of the visual content on the site!
The work of the Gorilla Foundation is supported primarily by donations from individuals, with some support from foundations, corporations, and educational product sales. The Foundation currently receives no support from government sources at this time.