Research/Care Blog

A Day In The Life

Koko covers herself in a fashionable drape. She loves to look her best and invent new outfits.

Date Added: 2016-05-04

Have you ever wondered how Koko spends her days?

In many ways Koko's daily life is extraordinary. As the heart of a decades-long exploration into Great Ape communication, she has grown up on camera and in the company of researchers, her conversations and actions recorded and analyzed. Her days are profoundly enriched by exposure to language and technology.

And yet... While extraordinary, in many ways her life is quite familiar. She revels in the comforts of home. She likes playing with companions and being read to. She savors good meals and good desserts, especially chocolate. We recognize much of what she experiences day to day, and we enjoy what she enjoys.

Below, Gorilla Foundation Caregiver and Research Assistant Sophia Gruskos offers an intimate account of the time she shares with Koko, a unique portrait of Koko's daily life that underscores how much we Great Apes—gorillas and humans—truly have in common.




Koko wakes at 8:45 a.m. and purrs as one of her caregivers sings to welcome the day while preparing Koko’s morning drink. After greeting the morning, Koko ventures out into her outdoor enclosure with a blanket and two of her favorite Waterbabies dolls in hand. While basking in the morning sun, Koko has a visit from a new volunteer. Together they roam the large yard and share in some games of chase.

After morning visits and exercise, it is time for breakfast, and Koko returns to her indoor enclosure. For breakfast, Koko has a vitamin-rich fruit platter which today consists of papaya, plantains, a clementine, an apple, some grapes, a little quinoa-and-lentil mix for protein, a breakfast sandwich with gluten-free bread and almond butter, and—last but certainly not least—a banana as a special treat. Although Koko does have banana on a regular basis, she does not receive whole bananas everyday. So in this way, it is a treat.  

Koko loves to read and be read to. Currently, one of her caregivers is reading her Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Koko LOVES chocolate). After breakfast, Koko sits in her nest of blankets while a caregiver sits nearby reading aloud. Koko intermittently purrs at parts of the book that she enjoys. She particularly seems to like the part when Charlie runs home to tell his mum about finding the golden ticket.

After a bit of reading and rest, Koko decides that she is ready for lunch. At this meal, she is again offered many vitamin-rich vegetables, a little protein, and a greens tray full of healthy, herbaceous content. She also is offered two small pieces of chocolate for having cleaned her plate. Today is special because there are two pieces of chocolate on Koko’s lunch tray. She is given the option of having both at lunch or one piece immediately and the other later in the day. She has a deeply contemplative expression while she mulls over the options. After some internal deliberation, she decides to have one piece of chocolate right away and save one for later. (She reminds her caregivers later, at dinnertime, by signing ‘Chocolate more, Koko love, hurry’. Koko has a very good memory. She keeps good track of all promises made, and never forgets.)

Late afternoon and evening is Koko’s family time with Penny, Ron, and Koko's kittens, Ms. Gray and Ms. Black. The caregivers depart, and Koko, Penny, Ron and kittens settle in for a cozy evening together.



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