Frequently Asked Questions

Is Koko still alive?
Koko is very much alive!

How old is Koko now?
Koko was born on the 4th of July, 1971. ( All about Baby Koko )

Where does Koko live?
Koko lives at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California, which is in the Santa Cruz Mountains about 35 miles south of San Francisco. She has her own specially equipped trailer and two outdoor play areas.

How does Koko sleep?
Koko, like all gorillas, builds a nest each night to sleep in. Unlike most gorillas, Koko's nest is made out of warm, soft blankets. She usually brings her stuffed dolls to bed with her. She sleeps for about 10 to 13 hours each night.

What do gorillas eat?
Gorillas eat mostly plant foods like leaves, shoots, fruit, bulbs, bark, vines and nettles. They also eat ants, termites, grubs, worms and insect larvae.

What does Koko like to eat?
Koko's diet includes a wide variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Her favorites are nuts, apples, gourmet tofu dishes and corn on the cob.

What is Koko's favorite video?
Koko loves to watch "Free Willy" over and over again. She also likes "Free Willy-2" and "Babe."

Does Koko have a new kitten?
After "All Ball" died in 1984 (as written about in Koko's Kitten), Koko was very sad. Koko got a new yellow cat that she named "Lipstick." Following Lipstick's death, Koko got a smoke-gray tailess cat that she named "Smoky." Smoky stayed with Koko for many years, until she passed away of natural causes (at a ripe old age for cats) in 2004. She was a lively and healthy adult cat, pampered and adored by all of us here at the Foundation. Smoky used to spend her days just being a normal cat, roaming the wooded grounds or lounging in the house or office.

In 2000, Koko made friends with a black and white kitten named Mo-Mo, who was adopted from the local Humane Society. Mo-Mo came to visit Koko almost every day. At night Mo would go home with DeeAnn, a former gorilla caregiver. When DeeAnn moved away from California (in 2003), Koko was left essentially kittenless.

Koko was very gentle with all of her cat friends.. She cared for her kittens as she would her own tiny gorilla baby, cradling them gently in her arms and carrying them on her back. She has never harmed them, even when they scratch or bite, as kittens sometimes do.

However, today Koko is more interested in having a baby than another kitten.

Does Michael or Ndume have a kitten?
Although neither (the late) Michael nor Ndume have had cats, Michael had a Staffordshire Terrier named Max. Michael also named our female German Shepherd, Flower. Both Flower and Max enjoy greeting the gorillas every morning with friendly barks and playing "chase" with Ndume.

Has Koko mated?
No, not yet. She and Ndume do spend as much time as possible together and we hope that someday they will have a baby.

Will Koko teach her baby sign language?
We don't know and we are interested to find out. We think that she might because we have seen her molding her ape doll's hands into signs.

Does Koko think of Penny as her mother or her sister?
Penny's relationship with Koko is like that of a mother and a daughter. Penny has been with Koko since she was a baby and spends time with her every day. Penny makes sure that Koko is cared for. She feeds Koko, brushes her teeth, reads to her, teaches her and helps get her ready for bed at night.

How does Penny teach Koko?
Penny teaches Koko sign language by making the signs herself while saying the words, and also actually molding Koko's hands into the shape of the signs. Penny goes over vocabulary lists, plays games, gives Koko rewards for right answers to questions, and even gives Koko tests.

Can Koko read?
Koko is just beginning to actually read. She can recognize symbols and seems to be able to identify words. Penny is helping her to learn to read.

Can Koko count/do math?
Koko has not been taught math.

Can Koko correspond/be a pen pal?
While Koko does like to "write" and draw with pens and crayons, she is not able to write letters. However, The Gorilla Foundation does welcome student letters and questions. You can direct your letters to

At The Gorilla Foundation, we think that it is very important that students take an interest in animals. Young people with concern for animals are the hope for the future protection of the world's precious animal life.


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