Twenty-Seven Years of Project Koko and Michael

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Conclusion

Koko’s unique relationship with humans and other animals elicits a strong emotional reaction and encourages people to identify with her. It is our hope that for at least some of those people, identification will be translated into action on behalf of gorillas and all the great apes. As Tony Rose (1998b;this volume)points out, we humans are tribal primates when it comes to taking conservation action. It is the individuals we count as our close kin who come first with us. We must therefore do everything within our means to promote a very personal one-to-one connection with gorillas. To date, we have made use of the following to achieve this: stories, photos, and gorilla conversations in our semi-annual journal, Gorilla ;personal replies to letters from the public;photos and biographies of our gorillas;examples of their artwork on our Internet web page;two AOL online chats with Koko;Koko’s appearances on popular television shows;a unique TV public service spot in which Koko herself asked viewers to “help” gorillas;publications such as the book Koko’s Kitten aimed at a general audience;and the ongoing free distribution of materials about gorillas for teachers and school children. Our next projects include establishing a visitor center open to the public as an adjunct to our gorilla sanctuary on Maui, inclusion of a “Koko Cam” live video feed on our Internet website, licensing of various “Koko” products from dolls to software, and perhaps most importantly, increased free distribution of French-language editions of the books Koko’s Kitten and Koko’s Story throughout the African countries where gorillas still live. With Koko as a charismatic ambassador helping to bridge the diminishing gap between human and gorilla, perhaps it will not be too late to stop the slaughter of the apes and ensure a future for these beings who truly are our kin.