The following programs leverage our strengths to advance great ape conservation, care and wellness:

Project Koko

The Gorilla Foundation’s flagship program, it represents the longest interspecies communication study in history, and the only one with gorillas (Koko, Michael, and Ndume). The project was initiated by Dr. Penny Patterson in 1971 and continues to reveal new insights into the minds of our fellow great apes, using sign language as a vehicle.  Learn more


The discoveries made through Project Koko lend themselves to educational outreach — perhaps because of our age-old quest to “talk with the animals.” Through unique books and documentaries, we teach people about the true nature of gorillas and our similarities.  We’re also working on a new “Koko App” to allow humans to learn to sign directly from Koko.  Learn more


Free-living gorillas are critically endangered in Africa as a result of illegal hunting,  habitat loss, and virulent diseases. Koko is a natural ambassador for her species, as she is able to communicate directly with our species and establish empathy!  We are exploring new partnerships to extend Koko’s ambassadorship to gorilla habitat countries throughout Africa.  Learn more

Care & Wellness

Gorillas in zoos and sanctuaries require care regimens that are much like those required by humans. We can optimize such care by exploiting two-way communication. Gorillas like Koko, who have learned sign language, can  “tell” us what they need and want.  This increases our ability to personalize their care and enrich their lives through deeper relationships with caregivers.  Learn more