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Beastly Behavior: Koko the Gorilla (Gorilla Foundation)

Can you comment on the recent gorilla news
concerning Koko and the Gorilla Foundation?

Near San Francisco, the city know for it's liberal views and alternative lifestyles, a lawsuit has been filed. The wrongful termination suit brought by two former female employees of the Gorilla Foundation has also raised controversy. Both females allege that they were asked to bare their breasts to Koko the gorilla--who is claimed to have a nipple fetish.

In a statement released on February 21, 2005 the Gorilla Foundation stated, "To be clear, we unequivocally deny the hurtful allegations of the lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the case through trial, if necessary, in the San Mateo County Superior Court."

Diana L. Guerrero, an animal behaviorist who has worked with captive animals in zoos and private collections stated, "The whole thing sounds a bit odd."

Guerrero, who has worked with bonobos, chimpanzees (including the famous signing chimpanzees now housed at the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute), gorillas, and orangutans, said that bonobos exhibit more sexually oriented behavior in their normal repertoire when compared to the other apes.

She continued, "Gorillas are social creatures and are ideally housed in group situations. Habituation to humans creates challenges and this is the case with Koko. Many scientists don't take the Gorilla Foundation seriously."

Koko was born at the San Francisco Zoo on July 4, 1971, and began working with Francine Patterson (president of the Gorilla Foundation) the following year. Koko is currently housed at the Gorilla Foundation which was established in 1976.

Koko is claimed to have an American Sign Language vocabulary of more than 1,000 according to foundation reports. In 1998 AOL users went ape during the first interspecies chat on the Internet. This gorilla has been the subject of books, videos and documentary films.

2005 San Mateo News Reports Gorilla Lawsuit

Koko's Dentist

Gorilla Chat Transcript


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Guerrero Ink: Freelance Animal Writer

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