Being five years old, this was my first Birthday with Koko in person, but I have seen videos of Koko since I can ever remember. My mom, Jamie, grew up learning about Koko from my grandmother and watching her on Mister Rogers. And she has raised me also learning about this amazing “gorilla person”, Koko.
My mom spends many of her mornings when I’m at school helping the Gorilla Foundation and also being a special friend to Koko. And on extra special occasions I get to come up. Many animals scare me — like dogs that aren’t well behaved or cats that pounce, but I have never felt scared of gorillas Koko or Ndume. I am amazed by how Koko seems to understand that I am a child and is extra gentle and kind to me. I love singing — and signing — to her because she purrs extra loudly when I do.
This is why I was so excited to be able to see Koko on her birthday (July 4th) in the morning before the party started in the afternoon. My Mom and Dr. Ken Gold and I got to wake Koko up. Mom and I made a six-foot long birthday card for Koko with lots of colors and hearts and Love words on it (see above photo). Since Koko can read I know she appreciates the kind words we put on it. Koko was pretty sleepy at first but once my mom and I started singing happy birthday to her she perked up and came over to the porch and purred for many minutes at a time.
We gave her the larger birthday banner and she was so happy that she took it back to her nest and wove it into her nest with her other blankets. One thing I’ve learned through my Mom is that gorillas make nests to feel comfortable and to sleep. Koko makes large nests and puts all the things that she cares about in her nest with her.
I do that at my house, too — put all the things I care about with me when I sleep. Another thing that gorillas and people have in common!
I think we sang happy birthday to her about 20 times and each time she purred and got very excited. Koko has become part of my family — I think about her every day and we care about her and Penny very much.
It makes me so happy to see Koko and to see how good of a friend she is to my Mom and to me. Koko inspires me to want to protect gorillas and have gorilla friends for the rest of my life!
Blog by Jamie Einerson, Community Outreach / Koko Caregiver (Volunteer) with her 5-year old daughter, Lili.