Koko was the reason I became interested in gorillas. I was homeschooled. In grade one, I started reading all the books in the library about monkeys, which then lead to an extremely focused study of all primates. I picked up Koko’s Kitten and everything clicked. Koko liked kittens. I liked kittens. Koko had wants and joys and sorrows and I understood that because that was something I had experienced. I understood the problem of poaching and endangered species, but Koko made that problem feel more immediate and real to a seven-year-old. My helpful mother purchased Gorilla Munch for me, and inside the box, there was a form to symbolically adopt a gorilla from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
With some help from my mother, I raised not only the required $50 to adopt an infant gorilla from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (my mother purchased a Koko plushie and gave her the name Afrika, the same as my gorilla, so I had something tangible, which still sits in my bookcase) but I think about $15-20 more dollars (I only asked for $1 from people in my fundraising), which I sent to the Gorilla Foundation to help build Koko a home on Maui.
The response from the Gorilla Foundation was unforgettable. I kept a scrapbook for years of everything gorilla-related, and so I still have all of the handwritten letters from Koko’s caregivers, the postcards, posters, and other small gifts that were mailed to me over the course of the next few years. I wanted to be a gorilla scientist and save gorillas.
While my life has taken me in other directions, I’ve never forgotten Koko or the plight of wild gorillas. I felt the pain of Koko’s death, because of how much she had meant to me. I cried when Ellen began her work with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. It seemed like a miracle. Koko changed my life in ways I will forever be grateful for.
— by Anna S.
Thank you, Anna, for sharing your inspiring memories about Koko with thousands of others who love her too. We will do our best to expand her legacy for the benefit of all gorillas (like Koko) who need our help now more than ever.
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