Captive Gorillas

Free-Living Gorillas

The Problem

All gorillas are smart, sensitive, emotional and highly conscious beings—just like Koko!  But gorillas “in the wild” (living in 10 African countries shown on the map) are critically endangered and on the verge of extinction. Why? Because humans hunt them, destroy their habitats, and transmit human diseases to them! Even gorillas “lucky” enough to live in captivity (mostly in zoos) are forced to remain in perpetual “lockdown” with little freedom of choice. Visitors invade their privacy and often mock them. And because gorillas have feelings just like humans, it hurts them. Just as it hurts our feelings to be mocked and ridiculed.

And humans and gorillas depend on one another. They can help us if we care enough to help them. Gorillas are often called “gardeners of the jungle” because they eat seed-bearing fruits and vegetables and transport the seeds great distances. Rainforest “gardens” grow and flourish, nourishing the planet. Without gorillas and other great apes, these forests cannot survive. And our earth needs them! Trees and plants are the “lungs of the planet.” They produce oxygen to breathe and clear the air of dangerous carbon dioxide. Without them, this gas acts like an insulating blanket, making the planet hotter and the air less safe. It causes fires, floods and severe weather. It is called global warming, and it hurts all living things.  

The Solution

It doesn’t have to be this way. You, our Kids4Koko, can help save the planet by helping gorillas and Nature. You can tell people what you know now: that gorillas are smart, sensitive, emotional and highly conscious beings! They can learn to communicate with us using “our” sign language, and tell us what they need and want to feel safe and well and happy. Then hopefully we’ll all realize that great apes should be respected and protected, both in the wild and in captivity.

So…helping gorillas co-exist with humans and Nature means creating a healthier planet for ALL living things. That’s the solution.  And you are essential to making it work!


How You Can Help


1) Join Kids4Koko!  Sign the Membership Pledge

When you sign the Kids4Koko Pledge, you will become an official member of Kids4Koko, and receive regular email updates on the progress of Kids4Koko toward saving gorillas and Nature.  You will also be connected to a network of like-minded kids across the globe.


2) Learn to Sign with Koko

Visit the “Learn to Sign” section of Kids4Koko, and practice making Koko signs with your family and friends. Then watch your favorite Koko videos and “sign along!” Sign language can be a powerful way to communicate both within and between species.


3) Learn to Paint and express your gorilla emotions

Visit the “Learn to Paint” section of Kids4Koko, and practice painting objects and expressing your emotions visually, with gorillas Koko and Michael as your guides. Learn to appreciate their paintings as well as your own hidden talents for art.



4) Read about Koko and Michael 

Visit the “Read about Koko and Michael” section of Kids4Koko and read the eBooks, Koko’s Kitten, Michael’s Dream and the heartwarming and inspiring new book, A Wish for Koko, which describes a “possible” future in whch we can all talk with great apes.  Click on the links to learn the signs that appear in the book..


5) Learn How to Help Gorillas Worldwide 

Click on the 2 images at the top of this page to learn more about captive (zoo) and free-living (wild) gorillas, and how their future depends on our attitudes and behaviors.



6)  “Dr. Penny’s Podium”

Visit “Penny’s Podium” to learn about the true nature of gorillas from Dr. Penny Patterson, who raised, taught, and learned so much from gorillas Koko, Michael & Ndume.



7)  “Mr. Gary’s Whiteboard”

Visit “Mr. Gary’s Whiteboard” for gorilla facts and breaking news, and join the discussion about ways to help them by extending Koko’s voice and becoming a Voice for Nature.



8) Share your Koko-inspired Signed Message Videos

Choose some of Koko’s signs and make a video expressing how you feel about Koko, gorillas and Nature, and how we can create a brighter future for us all.  Send us your video messages to share on Kids4Koko.




When Koko was 5 years old, a 3-year-old male gorilla named Michael came to live with her at The Gorilla Foundation. Michael was born in Cameroon, in Africa. He apparently saw his mother killed by poachers before he was rescued, and brought to a European Zoo. Later he came to the United States to live with his new friend, Koko. Michael learned nearly as many signs as Koko, and used them to tell very descriptive, sometimes sad stories. When a caregiver asked Michael to tell about his mother, he described a very disturbing event with “loud noises, cut neck, and hole in the ground.” 

Click on the above video to see what Michael signed. Then read the full story in the eBook, Michael’s Dream, and learn what it means for gorilla conservation. You’ll find it in the “Reading” section of Kids4Koko. 

We believe that as people learn about Michael and Koko through their gorilla stories and signs, they will gain empathy for gorillas worldwide. And they’ll want to help them survive and thrive and grow the rainforests. Humans and gorillas working together can keep this planet green and healthy for all species. And you can show them the way!