Natural Gorilla Vocalizations

Besides gesturing, gorillas also naturally vocalize to express their feelings, needs, and wants. Though they can't "speak" they can express such emotions as pleasure, impatience, fear, anger, annoyance, bluster, laughter, and joy through very clearly distinct vocalizations such as purrs, hoots, cries, chuckles, grunts, and barks. Following are a couple of examples.

 Examples of Natural Gorilla Vocalizations

Koko "Purrs"

Michael "HootSlaps"

Novel Gorilla Vocalizations

Koko also demonstrates "novel" vocalizations; voluntary use of their voice and breath control to produce interesting sounds. It has been widely believed by other researchers that gorillas and other great apes are unable to produce such voluntary vocal behaviors. This is an area of active research for the Gorilla Foundation.

Examples of Novel Gorilla Vocalizations

Koko "Huffs" into a Microphone

Koko "Blows" into Wind Instruments

We have much to learn about gorilla vocalizations, and gorillas like Koko may be able to translate (see Project Koko Progress and Plans).

Contact Us



The Gorilla Foundation / Koko.org
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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