Programs / KokoCares


1) Design new standards for taking care of gorillas in captivity (zoos and sanctuaries) based on what we’ve learned from Koko about them as highly self-aware and empathetic individuals.

2) Design and create gorilla sanctuaries outside of Africa that are: 1) in natural environments that mimic their African homelands, and 2) model how to make zoos as sanctuary-like as possible for gorillas.

Why is this Important?

There are currently no  gorilla sanctuaries outside of Africa — only zoos!  And zoos are not (currently) suitable for gorillas.  Zoos don’t provide the autonomy, privacy, enrichment, and natural (outdoor) environment that would allow gorillas to thrive.   It doesn’t have to be like this.  Gorillas Koko,  Michael and Ndume have taught us so much about what gorillas want and need — by communicating with us over multiple decades — and we would like to help implement what we’ve learned.


1)  Compiled a list of simple enhancements that zoos could implement right now to improve life for gorillas in captivity — and possibly extend their lifespans.

2) Drafted a preliminary design for a 70-acre gorilla sanctuary on the island of Maui that features perimeter fences (no cages or overhead structures), lots of natural foliage, tropical climate and a beautiful view of the ocean.

3) Built some of the basic infrastructure for the sanctuary (reservoir, foundations for a human caregiver base/observatory years ago.  The project has been restarted now that the need for improved captive conditions for gorillas has become more urgent.



1) Complete a preliminary design and detailed 3D model of the new Maui Gorilla Sanctuary with a world-class gorilla habitat designer,  that provides an ideal captive setting for zoo gorillas who are not suited to be on public display. [December 2023]

2) Partner with one or more  gorilla institutions who have gorillas in need of a temporary or permanent sanctuary [January 2023]

3) Present our ideas on the steps that can be taken now to convert a conventional gorilla zoo facility into one that more nearly approximates a sanctuary.  [March 2023]


The hills of West Maui where The Gorilla Foundation’s 70-acre site lives.