The Gorilla Foundation is conducting the longest interspecies-communication study in history (4+ decades) and the only one involving gorillas. “Project Koko” which includes gorillas Koko, Ndume and the late Michael, has taught us that gorillas are more like us than we ever imagined, and that all gorillas are (potentially) Kokos — they can learn a human sign language to express their thoughts and feelings, and to enrich both their and our lives.

The future of Conservation through Communication is therefore about transmitting the lessons and benfits of Project Koko to all gorillas (and other great apes) — both in captivity and the wild — so that they may serve as their own natural ambassadors. The following Strategic Plan is designed to accomplish and expedite this by developing the right tools, facilities and partnerships.


The plan features a 3-phase approach to creating a bright and sustainable future for gorillas: 1) Communication —  continuing to advance communication-based research and care efforts with gorillas Koko and Ndume, while allowing Koko to transmit her capabilities directly to the next generation via an expanded gorilla family, 2) transmitting the benefits of 2-way communication with gorillas to zoos and sanctuaries worldwide, in order to foster more gorilla  ambassadors, and enriching their lives in captivity, and  3) creating the first gorilla Sanctuary outside of Africa (The Maui Ape Preserve) as a model for interacting with gorillas in mutually benefical ways, and continuing our dialogue with them.

Phase 1) COMMUNICATION: Research & Care 

Gorillas Koko and her male companion Ndume currently live in a 7-acre sanctuary-like facility in Northern California (Woodside) attended by a group of dedicated caregivers who are conversant in Amercian sign language (ASL).  To continue our pioneering research and care efforts with gorillas, we would like to expand Koko's family and enable her to transmit her capabilities directly to a new generation.  This requires adapting the Woodside facility to accommodate a full gorilla family, and ensuring that we have an experienced care team to work with Koko and family for the next 5 years.

Goal 1.1:  Enhance Koko's Woodside facility with an additional outdoor enclosure and gorilla house, as well as exploration pathways to allow the gorillas to explore their own domain.   Partner with another gorilla institution to adopt a small number of gorillas to complete Koko and Ndume's family.  (A natural gorilla family consists of one male (silverback), several femailes, and some youngsters.)
Approx. 3-Yr Costs: $3-4M

Goal 1.2: Continue to practice and document (in our multi-purpose database) what we're learning from and about gorillas through interspecies communication.  Train new caregiver-resarchers to carry on our work well beyond our current team.
Approx. 3-Yr Cost: $3-4M

Basic 3-Yr. Operating Costs for Interspecies Communication:  $6-8M


Phase 2) CONSERVATION:  Education & Training 

The key to applying interspecies communication to achieve optimal gorilla care in captivity, and save them from extinction in the wild, is an education and training program that allows all gorillas to become ambassadors and spokespersons like Koko.  Our approach is 3-fold:

Goal 2.1:  The Koko App:  We're developing a new phone/computer app that will allow anyone to learn basic sign language (ASL) directly from "Koko" — via interactive video clips.
Approx. Cost: $1M

Goal 2.2:  Zoo Tutorials:  With the Koko App as a tool, The Gorilla Foundation will train a small number of zoos that have gorillas to teach "basic" (care-related) signs to their gorillas, and thus enrich the lives of both gorillas and caregivers.
Approx. Cost: $2M

Goal 2.3: African Curriculum:  Again, using the Koko App, we will be able to reach students, adults, and even poachers in African gorilla habitat countries, like Cameroon and DRC, in greater numbers, and with more impact than ever before.
Approx. Cost: $2M


The Koko App (above right) will be available to the general public, as well as to gorillla keepers at zoos, who can in-turn use the app to teach their resident gorillas basic care-related signs.  The benefits will be: i) gorillas will be able to express their needs and wants more accurately, ii) caregivers will develop more interesting relationships with gorills, iii) zoo visitors will be able to use the app to communicate with gorillas too, and iv) Koko will no longer be the only gorilla ambassador who can act as a spokesperson for her species.  All captive gorillas will be able to evoke the same level of interspecies empathy as Koko hs for all these years.

Note that Koko was featured as the "Voice of Nature" in a video PSA presented to attendees at the Paris Climate Conference in 2016.  The Koko App will provide Nature with many more voices.

By embedding the two paradigm-shifting books, Koko's Kitten and Michael's Dream, in the Koko App, with accompanying video clips of Koko and Michael signing, these two powerful stories will become more credible to Africans who have the power to save gorillas from extinction (by preventing  bushmeat hunting,  habitat loss and disease transmission).  We have distributed thousands of conventional books to African teachers with very promising feedback.  We also have feedback that the addition of the Koko App can produce more dramatic — and measurable — results, which can be leveraged by other gorilla conservation groups in Africa to save the species.

Approx. 3-Yr. Cost for Conservation: $5M


Phase 3) SANCTUARY:  The Maui Ape Preserve

The third component of our strategic plan is to create the first gorilla sanctuary outside Africa, and thus provide a safe and natural home for at least a small number of gorilla families, in perpetuity.

Goal 3.1: Purchase the Maui Land (350 acres):
The Gorilla Foundation has been leasing (and developing) 70 acres of land on Maui since the late 1990's.  However, there is no such thing as a permanent lease, and thus it is essential that we purchase the land.  Fortunately, we have an opportunity to purchase 350 acres (which includes the 70 acres) of prime agricultural land in the hills of West Maui, which would be ideal for a small number of gorilla families, and would provide a sufficient buffer from humanity.
Approximate Cost: $5-10M

Goal 3.2: Build Perimeter Enclosures, Houses & Video Technology 
Perimeter enclosures will give the gorillas room to explore and enjoy the natural vegetation, and a small number of buildings  will be necessary to administer care and facilitate interspecies communication research.  And a distributed network of cameras  will provide a technological solution for security, safety and an educational connection to both the local community and the general public.
Approximate Cost: $5-10M

Approximate Cost for the Sanctuary:  $10-20M

When we save gorillas, we are investing in our own future as well, a future where our age old dreams of talking with the animals and connecting with other intelligent life in the universe become everyday reality! 




We need to raise a total of between $20-33M to accomplish the above strategic plan, in 3 overlapping phases, by the end of 2020:

Phase 1) Communication (Research & Care): $6-8M (Core Operations)
— Ongoing ...

Phase 2) Conservation (Education & Training):  $5M (Transmission to Others)
— Ramping up ...

Phase 3) Sanctuary (Maui Ape Preserve):  $10-20M (Legacy)
— Initial land and plan established; need a "land donor" to continue ...

If you would like to be a major contributor to this vital effort to save and learn from our fellow great apes, please contact our Director of Education and Development, Gary Stanley, at [email protected]

We'll provide you with more detailed investment information and arrange a personal meeting with The Gorilla Foundation's Founders to explore the many opportunities for a meaningful partnership. 


Current Annual Operating Expenses (FYE 2017)

The Gorilla Foundation's efforts are made possible largely by support from individual donors, with some support from corporate and foundation grants and merchandise (with a message). The majority (74%) of these funds are allocated to program expenses — research, education, conservation, and gorilla care  — while about 28% covers the necessary overhead expenses of management and fundraising. 

The following stats represent our pre-audited financial statement for FYE 2017:

Source of Funds
Allocation of Funds
Tot. Revenue:  $1.6M /yr
Tot. Expenses:  $1.7M /yr
Net Assets:  $3M


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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