Project Koko

Scientific Goals & History 

Project Koko began in 1972 when Penny Patterson, a graduate student in psychology at Stanford, decided to teach sign language to a 1-year-old gorilla as part of her Ph.D. thesis. She had no idea it would evolve into a life mission. Learn more

Interspecies Communication

Dr. Patterson chose American Sign Language as the vehicle for communicating with a gorilla, as this approach had already been use successfully with chimpanzees. Turns out, other modes of communication are possible too. Learn more

Progress & Plans

Project Koko has led to a number of breakthroughs, as well as a paradigm shift in how we think about other great apes.  However, we have just scratched the surface, and there is much more to learn from them. Learn more


The Gorilla Foundation has accumulated more data than we can analyze, interpret and apply ourselves, and new opportunities for research present themselves daily. Join us in our quest to help our fellow great apes. Learn more