Michael came to The Gorilla Foundation from Vienna in 1976 at the age of 3, having been born in Cameroon, Africa. Although originally intended as Koko's mate, it eventually became apparent that he and Koko had developed a sibling relationship instead. Always bright and curious, Michael learned over 20 signs during his first year with The Gorilla Foundation and developed a vocabulary of more than 600 signs by the time he reached adulthood. He was the only "talking" gorilla in the world besides Koko, his female counterpart. Unfortunately, Michael passed away suddenly on April 19, 2000. See Michael's Memorial for details. Michael was a "great ape" in every sense, and he has left a legacy that will live on indefinitely. We at The Gorilla Foundation miss him dearly.

Meet Michael (video)



Date of Birth:

March 17, 1973 (unofficial)

Place of Birth:

Cameroon, Africa

Date of Death:

April 19, 2000 (Age: 27)

Hair Color:

Black with reddish hair on his head and a silver back

Eye Color:

Light brown


Approximately 6'0"


450 pounds


Used over 600 signs

Favorite color:


Favorite Foods:

Nuts, apples, peanut butter sandwiches

Favorite Shows:

"Sesame Street" and "Mister Rogers"

Favorite Toy:

Construction pipes

Favorite Music:

Opera by Luciano Pavarotti

Favorite Activities:

Playing with sounds and rhythms, playing chase, looking at pictures

Family Members:

No known relatives (parents believed to have been killed by poachers)


For more info, photos and videos about Michael, see:

Project Koko

Contact Us



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

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


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