"Thousands of gorillas like Koko are killed every year by poachers in the illegal bushmeat trade," said Robin Williams. "At this rate, free-living gorillas could be wiped off the earth in a few years." Williams learned about the urgency of the situation after meeting Koko and Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation.
"Meeting Koko was unforgettable," said Williams. "Koko used sign language to ask me to play with her. We shared interspecies laughter. I realized how important the work of the Gorilla Foundation is for the future of Koko and her species." Williams has since become an Honorary Co-Chair for the Gorilla Foundation's campaign to create the Maui Ape Preserve.
A real-life Dr. Dolittle, Penny Patterson, President and Research Director of The Gorilla Foundation, has spent more than thirty years working with Koko as part of a two-way communication project with gorillas. Dr. Patterson said, "Koko instantly connected with Robin. Koko, like us, can sense a person's nature and in this case, she was quickly drawn to Robin's warm heart."
"We appreciate Robin's important contribution to our goal of raising awareness about the plight of gorillas and his interest in helping us develop a primate sanctuary on Maui. This preserve will become the home for Koko and her male companion, Ndume, and will be available as a resource for welfare and conservation management of endangered primates in the future.
Koko and Robin's public service announcement is airing on television and radio through May 1, 2004. It is also available in print. The spots invite the public to learn more about the impending extinction of gorillas and other great apes by visiting www.koko.org, where additional video of Williams with Koko can be viewed. The Foundation's website also offers a DVD/VHS gift premium entitled "Koko & Friends" with an hour's worth of Koko-related content, including a five-minute feature clip of Williams with Koko. The Foundation produced the PSA with pro bono assistance from creative giant Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Inc. and Dave West of Utah Film and Video. Koko loves to watch the PSA and plays it over and over again.
This PSA represents a quantum leap in the Gorilla Foundation's mandate of "Conservation through Communication." The Foundation's mission is to bring interspecies communication to the public in order to save gorillas from extinction and inspire our children to create a sustainable future for all great apes. Learn more at www.koko.org.
About Koko: Koko uses a modified form of American Sign Language to communicate with humans. She knows over 1,000 words of sign language and has a working vocabulary of 500, which she uses in complex phrases. She also understands over 2,000 words of spoken English. Koko has become a beloved ambassador for her species. Through the efforts of the Foundation's Wildlife Protectors Fund, the classic book Koko's Kitten, a story of love, loss and grief, is having a profound impact on conservation values in Africa. As Koko herself says: "Koko loves gorillas ... people have to hurry!"