The Gorilla Foundation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Gorilla Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1976 by Francine Patterson in order to purchase the young gorilla named Koko from the San Francisco Zoo. After the purchase, the foundation continued to support Patterson's research as she taught Koko American Sign Language. Currently[when?] the foundation is continuing its plans to open an ape preserve on the island of Maui.

The actions of the foundation have been met with criticism by groups who believe it is improper to humanize animals and by researchers who have questioned Patterson's findings with regard to Koko's understanding of language.


Patterson had worked with Koko since 1972,[1] when she began teaching the then 1-year-old gorilla American Sign Language. Patterson planned to continue her scientific experiment designed to determine whether, if it were raised using sign language, a gorilla would learn to use language.

The childless Patterson fed and cared for Koko as she would her own child, and the pair formed a mother/child emotional bond.[2] After purchasing Koko, The Foundation moved her into a trailer near Patterson's home in Woodside, California. Patterson has published several papers claiming that Koko has developed a vocabulary of 1000 to 2000 words and that Koko has invented words and compound words.

Since the 1990s, the Foundation has been raising money to move their operation from its sole location in Woodside, California, to a new ape preserve in Maui.[3] They hoped that Koko would successfully mate with her partner, Ndume, and spontaneously teach their offspring to use sign language.[1][4]

Opposition and support for the Gorilla Foundation's Activities[edit]

The plans were opposed by the San Francisco Zoo on the grounds that the humanization of gorillas would be wrong.[citation needed]

Patterson herself has questioned the ethics of the Foundation's treatment of Koko. During a question-and-answer period, in response to a question as to whether her findings would ever be scientifically proven by duplicating them in an independent experiment, Patterson stated that she believes it would not be ethical to do it again because she believes that it is not right to keep such animals in such unnatural circumstances.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Spilky, Scott (Fall 2003). "Alumni spotlight: the Caretaker". University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 2004-06-22. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  2. ^ ...but what I came to realize is that there was an obligation, and a bond that I could not ignore. And there was an emotional bond had been formed, just like between a mother and a child." at about 00:30 in. - Patterson
  3. ^ "CHECK IT OUT: Gorilla project under redesign". The Maui News. 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  4. ^ "About The Gorilla Foundation". The Gorilla Foundation. Archived from the original on 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  5. ^ &vl=1059701368, at about 15:15 in "...we don’t think it would even be ethical to do this again..." Koko Loves: Conversations with a Signing Gorilla The Life of the Mind Lecture Series, Stanford University, 07/21/2000

External links[edit]