Michael’s Story

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Videographer: Ron Cohn

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Gorillas can not only use language to communicate their current wants and needs, they can also use it to relate memories. From Michael we learn directly about the tragedy of the bushmeat crisis, which he experienced firsthand as a baby.

Michael grew up with Koko; they learned sign language together, they both painted beautifully, and they became like brother and sister. But Michael didn’t come to live with Koko until he was 3 1/2 years old. As an infant in Africa, he lost his parents at the hands of poachers, in the illegal bushmeat trade, and witnessed his own mother’s demise. In this clip, Michael responds to a question about his mother with this description of that event — a memory that he conveyed several times, before his own passing in 2000. Michael will be remembered by Koko and everyone at the Gorilla Foundation always — he was a true inspiration.