Koko’s Birthday Celebration

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An ice cream sundae, apple cider, coleslaw, and angel food cake with soy-yogurt frosting–sounds like the start of a birthday feast for Koko! And indeed it was. On Koko’s 30th birthday (July 4, 2001), she devoured her favorite foods, enjoyed her favorite activity, a walk around the Gorilla Foundation grounds, and opened a mountainous pile of presents. At 7:30am, Ron, Anthony (an 8-year-old boy who Ron fosters and is well known to Koko), Koko and I set out on a walking trek. Koko held Anthony’s hand as they traipsed along the newly-cleared trails. We headed to the research office where Koko pulled up a patio chair and peered through the window to see a room filled with desks, computers, books, and papers. I wonder if she thought, “ah ha! That’s where they go when they aren’t with me.” Then we continued on our trek, including a walk by the compost bin. Koko also did some of the things that she has seen her caretakers do every day. She went to Ndume’s laundry area and washed some of his blankets. Koko even grabbed the bottle of detergent and put some in the water to make it soapy. She went to the area where the caretakers wash her toilet buckets, and she washed some buckets too. Koko’s walk encompassed 2 hours! She and Anthony even played on a big plastic alligator seesaw in the driveway. At one point, Koko went to Ndume’s trailer and operated his hydraulic gate, so that he could come outside. The rest of the day was spent feasting and opening presents. Koko viewed a birthday video created by the Gorilla Foundation staff to show her our lives outside of work. It was complete with visits to each person’s home, a strategic planning meeting, and a birthday party. Koko opened birthday cards from well-wishers, and unwrapped toys, blankets, and special treats. All the celebrating, the good cheer, and abundant love left Koko asleep in the midst of her loot at the end of the afternoon! Turning 30 years old was an exciting milestone for Koko, her Gorilla Foundation caregivers and undoubtedly for everyone near and far who loves her.