Project Koko

The Gorilla Foundation has been exploring interspecies communication with gorillas for over 4 decades, through an integrated process of research and gorilla care that focuses on using sign language as a primary tool for understanding the great ape mind and its potential.

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. more

Approach:  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.   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.  more

Publications & Presentations

Project Koko has generated numerous scientific publications, presentations, books, and documentary videos, much of which is available in the Education section of this website.  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.  more

Research/Care Blog

To view The Gorilla Foundation's blog articles on interspecies communication research and integrated gorilla care, click here.

Contact Us



The Gorilla Foundation /
1733 Woodside Rd., Suite 330
Redwood City, CA, 94061
1-800-ME-GO-APE (634-6273)

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Our mission is to learn about gorillas by communicating with them, and apply our knowledge to advance great ape conservation, education, care and empathy.
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