Michael’s Nightmare With the Gorilla Foundation

Michael (1973-2000)

Michael (1973-2000)

Apparently Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson and the Gorilla Foundation are bringing Michael, Koko’s former gorilla non-companion, back from the dead for yet another round of exploitation, this time in the form of an Ebook announced in a rather bizarre recent press release (of sorts) from “World Reader”. The Gorilla Foundation shared this announcement via social media, trying to ride the wake of their recent documentary publicity I suppose.

Conservation Through Storytelling

August 3, 2016 By

“Today Worldreader is proud to announce the addition of two books to our collection from the Gorilla Foundation: Koko’s Kitten and Michael’s Dream, true stories which together paint a terribly familiar portrait of sorrow in the aftermath of tragedy. In the first book we meet Koko, the Gorilla, who takes gentle care of a tiny kitten she names All Ball. When All Ball is hit by a car she is grief stricken. In the second we meet Michael who, when asked about his mother, uses American Sign Language to describe losing her to violence. Dr. Penny Patterson, who co-founded The Gorilla Foundation and who worked with Michael until his death at 27, thinks that Michael’s mother might have been the victim of poaching”.

There was no information provided in the press release on how one purchases the ebooks or when they may become available. Doing a search on the “World Reader” site nothing turns up for either ‘Koko’s Kitten’ or ‘Michaels Dream’. So perhaps the this was a premature release.

Patterson and her partner in primates, Ronald Cohn, may have a dream for Michael but how ‘Mike’ arrived on the scene was nothing short of a nightmare for him and an infant female gorilla named “B.B.”. Both were victims of an arrangement Patterson made with an “animal dealer” in Vienna, Austria to purchase two infant gorillas for a total of $28,000 usd. The female, listed as “B.B.” (for Bridgette Bardot) was intended to be Koko’s replacement at the San Francisco Zoo. Sadly B.B. died soon after their arrival from what would have been a long, stressful, and traumatic journey from Cameroon (see below). The male was called “King Kong” and renamed Michael.

While doing time at Koko’s camp Michael (according to Patterson) used ASL (American Sign Language) to share the details about how his family was killed by poachers during Michael’s capture thus beginning his nightmare into the gorilla trade. It’s quite remarkable that all these years later Michael would have an opportunity to tell his story to none other than Patterson, the person responsible for his departure from Cameroon. This is nothing short of a miraculous coincidence like no other. See video below from Kokoflix and further down you’ll see just how bizarre this story really is. You cannot make this stuff up.

Now if Michael’s story isn’t bad enough there’s a lot more than what he’s able to communicate in any video. Whether you believe Michael’s own story or not it’s likely he was in fact the victim of poaching. From the human side of this twisted tale there’s no doubting Patterson purchased Michael and “BB” from a “dealer” in Vienna for $28,000, I mean Patterson herself writes about it (see “Education of Koko” Patterson & Linden 1981).

Those are the facts but let’s put some of  the pieces together, shall we?

  1. In 1976 Patterson desperately needed a female infant replacement gorilla for the San Francisoc Zoo so she could keep Koko all to herself. The SF Zoo wasn’t going to simply turn over Koko, a moneymaking female without a fight (gorilla babies = big $$$$ for zoos) and apparently not without a replacement
  2. Through her connections Patterson had incredible luck finding not one but TWO infant gorillas from a shady dealer dude in Vienna, for a price. The female would go to the zoo and Patterson would have the male all to herself
  3. Patterson’s Gorilla Foundation is all about conserving the gorilla species right? So what could possibly be wrong with buying two infant gorillas from a dealer in Vienna “with a long history of trafficking infant gorillas”?
  4. While doing time at TGF Michael managed to miraculously share a remarkable story interpreted by none other than Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson about how his family was murdered by poachers so that he could be sold and exported by a dealer in Vienna who just so happenened to have a customer in the U.S. waiting for an infant gorilla, or two
  5. Return to #1 and start over

Twisted right?

See below from the International Primate Protection League, September 1977. Seems the officials were not too thrilled on how all this went down, but once again Patterson got her way, as always.


Screenshot 2016-08-07 at 09.11.05

Screenshot 2016-08-07 at 09.10.06Screenshot 2016-08-07 at 09.10.29

Click here for the full IPRL newsletter

And below we have the story in Patterson’s own words from “The Education of Koko” by Francine Patterson & Eugene Linden © 1981

The Education of Koko, Patterson/Linden

From the book- “Then in 1976 Barbet Schroeder, the film director, put us in touch with an animal dealer in Vienna who was offering an infant female and an infant male gorilla for $28,000. When an animal dealer offers wild-born infants for sale, on can usually assume that the infants were “harvested” through the gruesome expedient of shooting the mother. In this case the dealer told us that he obtained the two gorillas in Cameroon, and that they were orphaned after natives had eaten their parents. We were in no position to verify this story about the gorillas’ provenance, and, ultimately, we overcame our qualms and decided to buy the two. The idea was that we could then give the female to the zoo as a replacement for Koko and keep the male to be Koko’s eventual mate.

This left the simple matter of raising $28,000 to pay for the two infants. Together Ron and I had enough money to put down payment on one gorilla. We still had a shortfall of about $21,000. At this point the media proved invaluable. Since the beginning of the project, my work with Koko had attracted a considerable amount of media interest. I would like to think that this attention derived solely from the awesome import of being able to converse with another animal, but I have had to accept that part of it centers on the supposed drama of a woman working with a “ferocious beast.” In any event, during the The Education of Koko by Francine Patterson & Eugene Linden © 1981 All signed words (those made in American Sign Language) are indicated in italics. 46 period when we were trying to raise the money to buy the two baby gorillas, I would mention Koko’s precarious future to the reporters who requested interviews. The local press took up my problems as a cause.

The two baby gorillas arrived on September 9, 1976. Their names were listed as King Kong and B.B, (short for Brigitte Bardot). We took it as our fist obligation to rescue them from their unfortunate names. King Kong we renamed Michael, but we never got a chance to rename poor B.B. The rigors of her travels proved to be too much for her frail constitution, and in spite of our desperate efforts to nurse her back to health, she died of pneumonia within a month of her arrival.” Click here for ‘The Education of Koko’ in PDF

Sadly, in 2000 at the age of twenty seven Michael passed away suddenly of heart failure.

Directly and indirectly, Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson and her Foundation perpetuated both Michael and B.B.’s nightmares and they should not be allowed to make a dime from Michael’s life. Of course there’s nothing stopping Patterson from doing exactly that. There’s no stopping her, there never has been.

“Gorilla Mountain, the Make Believe Home of Koko and Ndume”

RIP Gorilla Harambe. Senseless Killing at Cincinnati Zoo

The parents are to blame. This killing should not have happened and the injured boy’s parents must be charge with child endangerment and all children removed from their care.

They are unfit, there are no acceptable excuses for this killing. Harambe is an innocent victim, how did this happen? Human neglect and stupidity. I have zero compassion or sympathy for this boy’s family. For every action there re consequences. Where is the justice? The parent’s actions (or lack of) caused the death of an innocent caged animal. Harambe did not deserve to die this way.

My heart breaks for Harambe and the Cinci Zoo staffer who had to make a split second decision to pull the trigger and end Harambe’s life. Thankfully the boy will survive, the parents should face charges for Harambe’s death.

We humans put Harambe in this situation, ultimately we are responsible for his life.


UPDATE 05/29/2016 Boy’s Family Issues Statement (WKRC Cincinnati)

The family of the child who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo has issued the following statement: “We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time.”

That’s it huh? Nothing else to say? Wow.

Raw video from DailyMail.com

mother of boy, harambe

If this Michelle Gregg is in fact the boy’s mother, it’s obvious she is not remorseful or accepting any responsibility for the direct cause of Harambe’s death. She thanks God which I guess makes everything okay (for her). Gregg better be thanking God if she somehow escapes criminal charges for this 100% avoidable killing of a gorilla confined in an enclosure, his domain. Sadly for him, this was his home.

Justice for Harambe Facebook Page

Cincinnati Zoo Director News Conference on Gorilla Shooting

Koko’s non-companion Ndume is owned and mismanaged by the Cincinnati Zoo.

Is Koko’s Gorilla Foundation Exploiting the Tragic Death of Robin Williams?

First off, there’s no denying the video of Koko the gorilla meeting Robin Williams is magical. Koko and Robin definitely hit it off, and why wouldn’t they? She’s a humanized gorilla with a nipple fetish and Robin (on this day) was her new boy-toy bosom buddy. The set up is a comedian’s wet dream.

But seriously, why would Penny and Ron even tell Koko about the tragic death of Robin Williams? Oh that’s right, they claim Koko overheard phone conversations before coming to Penny “with an inquisitive look on her face”. Well the story on their website has evolved since it first appeared, tweaking it up for dramatic affect? In fact, they must have been in a hurry because the latest version (as of this writing) has a few holes/typos (see below excerpt). In the original piece Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson was called “Koko’s surrogate Mom” but that reference disappeared the following day.

From Koko’s website:

“August 11, 2014

In 2001, Robin Williams was invited to meet Koko, the gorilla who communicates in sign language, at The Gorilla Foundation in northern California (see photo above). We had no idea what to expect, but everyone was in for a treat, and they became very special friends.

On Monday, Aug. 122, the day news broke of Williams’ passing, Koko and Penny and Ron (Drs. Patterson and Cohn) were together when phone calls started coming in about the sad event.  After the first all, Koko came to Dr. Patterson with an inquiring look on her face.  Dr. Patterson explanied that “we have ost a dear friend, Robin Williams.”  Koko wa quiet and looked very thoughtful (see photo bottom left).

More phone calls about the news came in, and Koko overheard one from a former colleague who had worked with Williams while he filmed a public service announcement for The Gorilla Foundation (based on his visit with Koko) in 2003.  The colleague’s voice broke at the end of the conversation.  About a half an hour later, Koko signed to Penny:  “CRY LIP” (LIP is Koko’s sign for woman).

At the end of the day, Koko became very somber, with her head bowed and her lip quivering (see photo bottom right).”

Click here for Gorilla Foundation Website “Koko Remembers Robin Williams”.

What about those two images of Koko looking “thoughtful” and “somber with her head bowed?” I worked as a TGF Gorilla Caregiver from 2009-12 and can assure you I’ve seen this very same thoughtful somber bowed look on Koko five days a week every week for three years. This is Koko’s look, well a frequent one anyway. She’s a sad somber looking gorilla. The truth is she catnaps sitting up with her head bowed and lip drooping several times throughout the day. At night Koko will sometimes sleep in this position too. She likes it or it feels comfortable for her. Koko’s droopy lip was/is a daily topic in staff discussions, journal entries, emails, and phone calls with Penny.

We staff knew of and talked about Koko’s visits from Robin Williams and other celebrities but I never once heard mention of the following claim issued by the Koko camp, “Robin made Koko smile — something she hadn’t done for over 6 months, ever since her lifelong gorilla companion, Michael, passed away at the age of 27.”

And finally, Drs. Patterson and Cohn didn’t think to videotape (for scientific purposes) the somber scene as Penny broke the news to Koko, like they did when spilling the beans after her kitty friend ‘All Ball’ was killed by a truck?



TGF says “Koko responds to the news of Robin’s passing”. Oh yeah? Well this is how she responds to just about everything.


TGF says “Koko looks somber after it sinks in”. Interesting because this is how she naps all day every day, sitting upright with a droopy lip. She looks sad every day. Helloooo, she’s lived alone in a trailer for more than 40 years, talk about #depression

Ndume, Koko’s Non-Companion Deserves Better (Petition Now Closed)

Ndume has been Koko’s non-companion for over 20 years, the experiment is over. Show him some dignity respect. It’s now Ndume’s time and the right thing to do.

Click here for petition. It’s easy

With over 3000 Signatures the petition has been closed. Please click here for details. A big “thank you” to all who signed.

Copy and Paste or create your own:
To: Cincinnati Zoo, ATTN: Ron Evans
Bring gorilla Ndume home. Follow the recommendation in the draft AZA Gorilla Management Plan, and assume your responsibility for the humane care of the gorilla who was bred and raised under your management. Give Ndume a fair chance for some good years in his life.

Sincerely, [Your name]

Ndume lives in isolation at the Gorilla Foundation, as the rejected paramour of Koko, the famous “signing” gorilla. Ndume, stud #0776, was born at Cincinnati Zoo on October 10, 1981. He was hand-reared and, after an unsuccessful three-year stint at Brookfield Zoo, from 1988 to August 1991, Ndume was finally transferred to the Gorilla Foundation on December 10, 1991. Over 20 years ago. Contrary to the image conveyed by TGF’s PR photos, Ndume lives in a trailer, lacking a companion, enrichment, or – obviously – a suitable living environment. In its draft Gorilla Management Plan, the gorilla experts of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommended that Cincinnati Zoo bring 32-year-old Ndume back into the zoo population. Despite repeated requests by Ndume’s former caregivers and others – going back several years – the zoo refuses to publicly acknowledge its responsibility to the gorilla who was bred and raised under their management. The zoo needs to act, now, to bring Ndume home. Give him the care and respect that every zoo-bred animal deserves. Thank you for caring. Please share. See also: Gorilla Mountain, the Make Believe Home of Koko and Ndume and Koko and Ndume, Gorillas that I Miss

Koko and Ndume, Gorillas That I Miss

koko and bill

A very young Bill (Captain Kirk) Shatner with Koko (image from Koko.org)

It’s been a few days since I let the kitten out of the Gorilla Foundation bag and so far not a peep from the Patterson camp. Perhaps they’re incredibly busy researching things or meeting with their lawyer ‘advisor’. Or they may be just too darn busy with that move to Maui

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