Sunday, March 10, 2013

Meet Ndume: The feces-flinging gorilla with a heart

The plight of Ndume, “talking” gorilla Koko’s rejected paramour, becomes more pressing when you learn a little about him and the challenges he has faced during his 31 years. You don’t have to delve very deep to discover why this particular gorilla was chosen to be part of the infamous Koko publicity machine. I started learning more about this terrific silverback after writing about the concerns that several former caregivers had for his health and welfare.

Ndume was selected for deportation to the Gorilla Foundation, it appears, because he wasn’t playing by the rules at the two zoos that tried to put him on exhibit. In fact, he mightily offended zoo patrons and officials at both Cincinnati Zoo and Brookfield Zoo. The zoos wanted to get rid of Ndume because he threw feces and regurgitated food, say several ape experts and former caregivers.

Ndume in 1989
As I explained in the blog post Cincinnati Zoo abandons old gorilla, Ndume was born at Cincinnati Zoo in 1981. He was raised by humans and, after a 3-year unsuccessful stint at Brookfield Zoo from 1988 to August 1991, Ndume was finally transferred to The Gorilla Foundation on December 10, 1991.

“It was an unfortunate set up from the beginning and, of course, Ndume is the one to have suffered all these years,” one expert (alias: Jones) tells me. Ndume was so disliked by the zoo keepers, Jones says, that instead of calling him by his real name, pronounced en-doo-may, “his keepers at both zoos called him ‘En-Dummy’ and other insulting names.”

I can understand why there was some antagonism.

“One time a group of zoo docents-in-training [at Brookfield Zoo] came to see the shit-throwing En-Dummy… Their loud and disrespectful behavior got Ndume pissed and he started throwing vomit and shit, with remarkable accuracy,” Jones recalls. He flung the feces until the docents were out of range.

His defiance remained intact when he moved to California. One correspondent tells me of the time when someone at the Gorilla Foundation yelled at Ndume to bring in his chair from his outside enclosure. He was treating Ndume “like he was a small kid to be ordered about, instead of a magnificent silverback. Ndume ignore him, and the guy yelled about how obnoxious and stupid Ndume was, furious he wasn't obeying him. At this point, Ndume went back and picked up the chair, looked at the guy, and then threw the chair directly in his direction. He never brought the chair back in, bless his heart!”

Despite his intransigence, or maybe because of it, many of his keepers clearly love this gorilla for his intelligence and refusal to be broken. “Thank you for keeping Ndume's plight in the forefront,” one correspondent wrote. “That boy deserved better. Of all the gorillas I know, Ndume is among the most special / intelligent / gentle / wonderful.”

Penny Patterson has some strange rules at the Gorilla Foundation


At one point, Gorilla Foundation founder Penny Patterson only permitted one caregiver at a time to be with Ndume. (With only two caregivers there now, this isn’t a big deal, but the former caregivers were bothered by the policies when there were more employees.) Because they were only allowed to be with Ndume one caregiver at a time -- no researchers allowed, by the way – the keepers all had very different relationships with him.

One former caregiver (alias: Young) told me about Ndume’s current life. It appears the gorilla is either mellowing in his old age, or has pretty much decided to accept the weird and lonely life he’s been given.

“Throwing regurge or feces has greatly reduced over the years, but still happens occasionally if he gets stressed or nervous,” Young says.

Another former caregiver (aka Jackson) recalls that Ndume "maybe only threw feces at me once (I think it was due to some game playing, to get a rise out of me) and he threw regurge at me once because I closed him out of his sleeping area to clean up more regurge."

Yet another former caregiver (let’s call this one Smith) points out that, while Ndume doesn’t fling his feces frequently, “he continues to throw poop and vomit with incredible accuracy. In my experience with him, he only did this from inside his trailer when he was frustrated at being closed in.”

In his trailer? Evidently Ndume lives in a trailer that is approximately 12’ x 20’. Since Ndume and Koko are never allowed in the same enclosure together (and they’re going to make a baby how?), he is closed inside for meals while Koko is given access to the outdoor enclosure. (See Ndume's 31st birthday on Youtube.) “He doesn't like this,” Smith tells me, explaining that it “makes for stressful times while he's SUPPOSED to be eating his meals. Food is used as a tool to motivate him to come in. If he doesn't come in, he is punished and doesn't get to eat.”

Smith goes on: “Also, Penny will not give him access to the outdoors if the temperature is below 55 degrees or raining. [FYI, National Zoo temperature limit for gorilla outdoor access is 42 degrees.] During the winter months, he'll go days without being given access to the outdoors. He gets frustrated and bored. His only outlet is to throw poop and vomit as a way to get even with staff. Then, of course, he is punished for this too -- but like a kid, even negative attention is better than no attention at all.”

Ndume loved to do training, Jackson says. "I was training him so we could do an echocardiogram on him without putting him under, but Penny put a stop to that. She said he does not like the color black (and my mock ultrasound unit was black)."

I asked if Ndume is on any kind of medications. “Penny has him on about 18 to 20 supplements a day,” Smith says. “Nothing like Koko, though, who is forced to take between 70 and 100 pills a day, as recommended by their telephone-psychic-homeopath.”

According to Jackson, “Ndume was given a men's multivitamin, an herbal supplement for eyes, cod liver oil, Bach Rescue Remedy (which we sadly used a lot of, to keep him calm, when all it took was patience and understanding -- not drugs) and liquid serotonin which I refused to give to him. There was also another supplement called 5HTTP, which was supposed to alter the chemicals of the brain (which I refused to give to him as well). All of these were prescribed by [self-described naturopath and intuitive] Gabie Reiter."

Young points out that Ndume also gets additional supplements “if the psychic feels something is wrong.”

How did Ndume get to be such an avid feces flinger?


“Little gorillas raised in a fish bowl tend to grow up without the proper social skills, [not knowing] the gorilla culture, etc.,” Anonymous commented on my last blog post. “Throwing feces is very common, regurgitating food is also very common. Throwing it at the visitors is a classic byproduct of an ape having been reared in a nursery setting behind glass with antiquated hand rearing techniques… Cinci has produced many of these males and all are farmed out to other institutions. Out of sight, out of mind.”

“I recall Ndume being hand reared in the fish bowl nursery at Cincinnati Zoo,” another expert (alias: Hall) wrote. “One of the stereotypical behaviors, after a few years of being stared at, is to either thump the glass, throw shit at the glass, puke at the glass, etc. Often times this is done at a frothy frenzy state of anxiety. The animal is so high he can't be reached mentally by gorillas or humans.”

According to Hall, “socially he is ruined for life, much like Kanzi.” Hall tells me that, in all likelihood, “the pathology is deep and Ndume would need lots of anti-anxiety medication to help him. He would need behavioral therapy and it's possible he will never fit in anywhere,” if he was transferred back into a zoo population. (However, Halls emphasizes, "he can't continue to sit in a trailer.") “These males seem to have a tremendous amount of anxiety from poor coping skills, poor foundations, poor everything. It manifests itself in outbursts.”

“When apes are poorly nursery reared, they have been known to be terrified of other apes and have zero social skills and lack basic gorilla culture,” Hall explained. They are poorly stimulated, happy to be alone, and do not recognize social cues for love and affection. They are, Hall says, “much like Romanian orphans who lack the early neurological stimulation needed at exact times in the brain development.”

“The damage is huge, beyond repair, and these children/apes suffer all their lives from a million issues. Failure to thrive, language processing disorders, you name it. Those first 18 months make or break you,” Hall explains.

On the other hand, former caregiver Jackson believes Ndume "just needs a little more TLC than maybe your average gorilla, but I think it would be possible for him to re-enter a troop and maybe even be on display... He has been ‘babied’ for the past 20 years at the Gorilla Foundation with everyone tiptoeing around him and Penny only giving him attention by giving him unhealthy treats.”

I'm not an ape expert, but it seems to me that some gorilla experts need to check in on Ndume. Can you imagine how anxious he must be if he can't mentally process life, can't understand the social cues, can't cope, is prescribed mind-altering drugs by a psychic, and is stuck in a trailer? I'd throw my shit too, or barf with anxiety. 

What do zoos usually do when they have this kind of problem with one of their apes? 


Keepers tell me they use a variety of behavioral curbing tactics when they are faced with these problems. They don’t put the troubled ape on exhibit when big crowds are expected, or they give him a short time on exhibit with access to his “bedroom” at all times. They try to give the ape other things to focus on, such as enrichment toys or feeder devices. They may use drug therapy (Xanax), as prescribed by a veterinarian for anxious behavior. (There are many effective drugs and Xanax is one example of a short acting anti-anxiety medication that can help an ape in a stress-inducing situation, Hall says.) In extreme cases, they may use hotwires to keep him from pounding the glass. While hotwire itself is also a stress inducer, it can be a very useful tool when the gorilla could potentially hurt himself with the body slamming on a window.

There is no cure, of course, just management.

Most importantly, Hall believes Ndume will need a dedicated keeper staff to support him psychologically for the rest of his life.

“These anxious males are fragile in many ways and some show physical problems like diarrhea and stomach issues. Behavioral training, using positive reinforcement along with years of careful drug therapy, may solve some of his issues,” according to Hall.

Of course, if a zoo owns a problem ape and doesn't want to commit to his well-being, the other option is to dump him. A zoo can frame this as a “loan” or a “donation.”

Once these experts knew they could talk to me confidentially, they went to town with their anger. One expert alleges, “Cincinnati abandoned Ndume and would have euthanized him if they thought they'd get away with it.” Another says, “I suspect that Cincinnati had no use for a puker, shitter, or frantic male gorilla. Off he goes to Brookfield who did not get what they bargained for. Then he goes back - not sure why - my guess is he was tossing shit and barf to the public nonstop. Then he goes to Penny's place to hang with Koko. Whew… got rid of him!”

The experts explain that some of the nursery-raising techniques for apes may be predictive of problems. Intentionally nursery rearing for the sake of public viewing is just a crime, these experts say. “Doing it when a mother is dead, a baby has pneumonia, etc., is a medical necessity. Even then, though, you have to get that baby in with a nurturing and accepting adult male or female as soon as possible.”

It is important to recognize that the experts who talked to me did not condemn all zoos that raise apes in a nursery.

“If you want top-notch nursery rearing protocols, ask Columbus Zoo for a copy of their policy. It is stellar and works,” Hall says.

“Gladys [Cincinnati’s latest human-raised orphan] should have gone to Columbus, where they have a long-established and successful surrogacy program,” Smith suggests. “But Cincinnati wants babies to bring in gate revenues, so at least they went through the time and expense of setting up a program like Columbus'. Gladys will be okay, hopefully.”

“There are some great people in the zoo world," Smith points out, "but they're up against a ‘culture of an organization’ with a bunker mentality (you're either for us or agin' us).”

I’m holding out hope that some of those great zoo people will step in to ensure that Ndume is getting proper care and attention. As a friend pointed out to me yesterday, “if the AZA Gorilla Species Survival Plan can’t do anything about a travesty like this, what are they here for?”

You can help.
(Updated, 6/25/2014) In 2013-2014, the AZA Gorilla SSP wrote a gorilla management plan that advises zoos on how to manage their gorilla populations. That management plan recommended that Cincinnati Zoo take Ndume out of The Gorilla Foundation, and bring him back to the zoo. At first, ape experts from other zoos told me they were "hopeful" that Cinci would follow the recommendation. Lately, those hopes have faded. While the zoo continues to market Gladys and other baby animals, Ndume sits in his isolated California trailer. These kind of actions by a zoo are exactly the reasons why the public is growing increasing skeptical of zoo claims to care about the animals they breed.  Sign our petition, asking Cincinnati Zoo to bring Ndume home.

47 comments:

  1. Depending on when each caregiver worked with Ndume, their account will be different, but your account is quite accurate. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Each caregiver holds one piece of the patchwork quilt that is Ndume. It all has value and is worth gold in figuring out the deep pathology of this boy. For God's sake..get him out of the darn trailer.I have lost much respect for Cinci. I hope they take notice of the 97,000+ hits on this site and think long and hard about this PR vs.the PR they hope to receive from the new baby. It's all about PR for them. Will Gladys live in the fish bowl too? Shame on Gladys Porter for sending her to Cinci. What an uneducated uninformed choice.

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    2. I feel so sad about Ndume. To let him sit for years and years with no medical care is a serious crime. A letter writing campaign needs to be done and CInci's address should be posted here. How terrible and shameful. Who is in charge of the gorilla collection and how can I make a call?

      Cinci needs to stop and seriously rethink things. The anger is building and your readership is exploding.I will now be posting this all over facebook and internationally. Hmm..they want PR? They are really getting it now.

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    3. Excuse me? Was an international search done by the Gladys Porter Zoo to locate a lactating surrogate gorilla mom? That would be step 1. Step 2: check out who does brilliant hand rearing of baby apes. Cinci is not on the radar at all for this. step 3: call other zoos who have Cinci rejects and see how their technique has failed over and over. Gladys Porter should be removing that baby now and getting her into another situation. What a cluster.

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    4. If you go to the gorilla studbook you can see that Cinci has sent out 5-7 hand reared males into the population for others to enjoy. Thanks.

      Funny thing: they don't keep them for their own enjoyment.

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    5. According to the studbook, Cinci owns Gladys. They are responsible for her well-being. Funny (or not so much) how they can "bring her home" to make sure she has proper care, but can't help Ndume, whom they are just as responsible for. But then again, as others have said, she'll bring in revenue, he's just a burden. That they created.

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  2. Ndume was a tool to keep the money pot simmering. It had to look as if they were trying to cook up a baby for Koko all those years. Raising a family isn't cheap you know.

    Now that Koko's shelf life for baby making is expired, they're going to stir up the Maui pot for a while.

    These two pots have been simmering for a very very long time.

    Don't worry, there's always the conservation stew they're cooking up. But they need your money for that too.

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    1. Gorillas don't have their first baby at 41. Really? Does Penny think we are all this stupid? There is no science going on. Just a crazy person with pet gorillas.

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    2. Your right i looked it up males are ready to mate at 15 on average for females (or Koko) its 8 years old 8 so penny is trying to tell me there pregnant for 33 years.

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    3. You guys say all this stuff like Koko and Ndume would have gotten better care at a zoo. You do realize both of them lived far better lives than any zoo animal could. Yes I wish they were in the wild like they should be too, but that ship has long since sailed. So I think they are providing the best care they can for her given their circumstances. I'd like to see you do better honestly.

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  3. More spin and junk on poor hapless Koko has been aired recently.Now they are after 10 million razoos:
    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Koko-the-Gorilla-Gets-a-Makeover-196628391.html

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    1. oh boy. She is going to save a species and move to Hawaii. Let's focus on building Ndume his own enclosure at a zoo that will respect and cherish him. That may cost 10 mill. What a smoke and mirrors scam.

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    2. So you think Ndume would have been better off at a local zoo than how he was raised at The Gorilla Foundation? From every video I've seen he was given a far better life than any zoo animal... so I really don't understand your argument here.

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  4. When I look at the depths to which the Gorilla Foundation and the Great Ape Trust/Bonobo Hope/Iowa Primate [Faux] Learning Sanctuary have sunk, and the challenges being faced by Roger Fouts' Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute, I really wish Eugene Linden could write a follow-up to his 1986 book "Silent Partner: The Legacy of the Ape Language Experiments." Legacy, indeed.

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  5. Dear Cinci Ape keepers. Do something. There are 98,000 hits on this site and an increase of 1,000 since yesterday. Countless cross posting on Google and facebook.This is being watched internationally. Tell your PR people and managers. Ndume needs to come home right now.You can't wiggle out of this mess.

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  6. Did all of the researchers working with ape language studies wind up going crazy?

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    1. I don't believe they're crazy, just financially invested/dependent in the side of a debate that lost in the 1980s-90s. Skinner was wrong, Chomsky was right. Since then, they've been seeking ways to legitimize their "research" in the face of that fact, and they've been floundering the whole way. Gorillas don't need an ambassador, or sign language, or some stupid ape colony on the side of the planet opposite their natural range. Bonobos either. I've never seen any animal who couldn't make his feelings abundantly clear without (and in a far more robust and meaningful way than) sign language.

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    2. Consulting psychics about gorilla care and thinking bonobos can teach puppies English sounds pretty darn crazy to me

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    3. Nucking Futz.

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  7. 1. Penny has always selfishly wanted Koko all to herself and could never have given Koko a baby, but she always needed the money for a one.

    2. There have never been REAL efforts to build the Maui great ape resort, but they've always needed the money for this project.

    3. There are no REAL conservation efforts, never have been. They're not fighting to save a species, but they've always needed money for these imaginary efforts.

    All smoke and mirrors. Koko is adorable, but everything else about The Gorilla Foundation is BS.

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  8. Penny and Ron ARE crazy, anyone familiar with the project will not dispute this fact. So who is to blame? While PP andd RC are to ultimately to blame, the board should be held accountable. It is their job to make sure the foundation succeeds and that the type of things that are occuring do not happen. They have failed! And in the process they are responsible for the conditions Koko and Ndume are forced to endure. Look up teir names on the website and let them know how you feel. Ignorance is no excuse.

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    1. I keep seeing comment after comment about how terrible these gorillas conditions are. I just don't understand the connection you guys are making when you compare them to the conditions at many city zoos. I won't claim to know a lot about any of this, but I really don't get how people think their conditions are worse than that of some of the zoos I've visited.

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  9. I'm the guy who didn't think they're crazy. I have a long reply. i'm going to try fit it into a few response windows, if I may. I'm sorry I don't see it as black-or-white as all of you.

    I'm hesitant to call anyone nuts or crazy because it stigmatizes mental illness. That ain't kosher for me. Besides, I don't think believing in psychics and trying hair-brained experiments makes one crazy. An unfortunate truth is that a lot of very rational people believe in psychics and homeopathic medicine. I'm not one of those people, I believe both are socially irresponsible, but such people exist in every day life and in order to get on with them, I have to sort of smile and nod when they talk about that stuff and return to discourse after they finish.

    The stupid experiment with dogs at GAT is another story. Most good academics get one good idea, and it's usually mostly developed by their early twenties, the rest of their career is spent refining it, defending it, and considering its implications. Patterson's was "What if we taught a gorilla sign language instead?" SSR's was "What if we taught bonobos instead (a better species to use) and also used lexigrams?" In the years that followed Patterson and SSR spent their time refining their idea, defending it, and considering its implications.

    Patterson basically killed the field's credibility in her fight with Terrace, her experimentation was LUDICROUSLY uncontrolled and I get the feeling that what she really is is an academically privileged individual whose father's reputation likely got her further than it should. What research she has brought forth is a little useful, if old. Her academic career never took off because she succeeded in alienating a lot of people, but her idea has been in its end stages for a very long time--on artificial life support to the best of her ability. It's just really unfortunate that her idea was manifest to her in the form of a baby gorilla she should have let go when her thesis was over. Koko's probably her daughter in her mind. She probably knows Koko could never conceive and has known for a long time. I peg Patterson as an emotionally weak, but strong-willed woman. I feel like this entire charade could be chalked up to a congenital bleeding heart.

    Patterson probably knew the life Hanabi-ko would have had at the San Fran Zoo, and couldn't bear the thought of an 1970s-80s zoo environment for her after the strong attachment she had formed. This was academic suicide, I think, but a publicity blessing. So off she toddled, a PhD with a mediocre thesis topic, at best, and a lack of professional discipline, and she formed her institute. Media equals money, money equals academic clout, so she got a bigger share of attention than she should have. Hence the dead field.

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    1. "An unfortunate truth is that a lot of very rational people believe in psychics and homeopathic medicine."

      And it's fine if any human chooses this path for their individual care and at their own expense.

      It is not okay if the practice is forced on another being who does not have a say in the matter, in place of standard vet medical care, and at the expense of public donors who are tricked into thinking they are supporting a real cause.

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    2. I agree to an extent, but I saw you guys even mentioning 5HTP like that is some harmful supplement. I don't really understand how some of you think you know better on gorilla diets haha.

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  10. (continued from other response from "I don't think they're crazy" anonymous poster)

    SSR suffers a similar syndrome. Ideas are like children, says Socrates, and their mothers are very reluctant to let things be as they may and act accordingly--good or bad idea. I feel like Chomsky's idea of an innate human linguistic ability is completely founded, and I think studies of these animals has proven they're capable insofar as they're physiologically able-- a small amount of cortical thickening in the Great Apes means they're more linguistic than most, but not really all that linguistic. I think SSR's research helps prove this, but I also think she doesn't know that much about bonobos, despite years around them, she too has become too attached both to her ideas and the sweet little apes. The dog thing isn't as crazy as it sounds in the proper context. Dogs show a bit of the cortical thickening apes do, we selected them to be more responsive than wolves to verbal commands, so it makes sense this would happen. This being the case, SSR has an interesting question in "what do other animals do with english?" We know that dogs can learn linguistic commands, but what if dogs could learn such linguistic phenomena from another species? It's a semi-interesting idea, but there's no way to implement the experiment, (to my mind), reasonably ethically.

    I think both SSR and Patterson know the damage they've done to these apes, but I don't think either one would trust them with anyone else, or would trust anyone else's agenda as good for them. I think they call that maternal instinct when speaking of a mother and her babies. I believe Koko probably has yearned to be a part of proper gorilla social structure and I think Patterson's picked up on this. It likely tears at her quite a bit that she's been the one to have kept that from happening and the quest for a baby might, at one time, have been a shot at redemption. I think Ndume wasn't what they expected and he's been treated like the turd sandwich Cincinnati served them when they dumped him there. If their plan in the 1990s had any hope of working, it would have required a proven breeder. It wouldn't surprise me if he freaked Penny out and her anxiety (and maybe a ham-handed Ron?) dictated a lot of how things were done.

    I have no doubt that at their peak they had every intention of following through on their conservation commitments and building the Maui ape preserve, but I think both fell through for reasons unknown and they've been in a rock and a hard place ever since. The money isn't there, but the promise of the preserve, lack of legitimate research, and the veneer of conservationist values was something that brought more money in.

    Koko, Kanzi, et al are lab apes. Patterson and SSR engage in animal testing. That's what they do, they test their apes. These animal testers managed to deny this reality to themselves because they got attached to their subjects and probably couldn't bear the thought of the damage they're doing socially because they love their subjects so much. SSR has denied it to herself she has forgotten all form of ethics with her apes. Their research is outdated and they just need to let their ideas die. It's fighting reality that's made them appear crazy. I wish for both animal testers and apes a happy retirement--all of them are old enough (except Teco, who just needs a normal upbringing).

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    1. Dear friend.. I am in tears. I take my heart and soul and say thank you for your brilliant and spot on assessment. Oh my god, you nailed it.

      Turd sandwiches were handed out right and left from Cinci. Priceless.

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    2. I think what you have said is pretty accurate but I wonder if Koko was/is really interested in male gorillas. From what I have read and seen over the years she seemed to want to mate with male humans. All a product of her upbringing I guess.

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    3. Wow, and what's up with koko wanting to see everyone's nipples? Male and females? I read koko harassed staff members to see their nipples!

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  11. Penny spends thousands of dollars a month on supplements, homeopathics, and prescribed meds that are diagnosed and recommended over the phone by the psychic "homeopath". This person has never even seen Koko or Ndume. Not to mention the fees involved for phone consultations, which are frequent and lengthy.

    The Board is aware of this, donors should be too.

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    1. Cincinnati owns this animal. Shame on them. Has anybody heard a peep from them?

      Funny how the little gorilla arrived just in time for the spring crowd and will be hand reared through the tourist season. Another turd sandwich in the works. Way to go Cinci.

      Let's not forget little Veejay too who was fish bowl reared. One screw up after another.

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  12. I consider myself objective as there are always two sides to a story and usually the truth lies somewhere between the two. It is, however, interesting how I have yet to see a paat caregiver give praise to how things are run at the foundation......interesting indeed. No response from Ms. Patterson?

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    1. The last I heard from Ms. Patterson was last July, when she sent me a threatening email. Read it in my blog post, "Is that a threat of retaliation I smell?"
      http://chimptrainersdaughter.blogspot.com/2012/07/is-that-threat-of-retaliation-i-smell.html

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  13. A former Gorilla Foundation Caregiver praising the Gorilla Foundation? A rare breed indeed!

    There is a very high staff turnover rate, and for good reason. Once a reasonable, rational, and ethical caregiver realizes the unreasonable, irrational, unethical management, and the truth behind the foundation claims and causes, caregivers must make a choice based on morals and what you're willing to accept as normal, standard, and ethical.

    The choice is easy, saying goodbye to Koko and Ndume is not.

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  14. Goodbyes are the toughest, but eventually we all eventually come to that point. I miss Koko, Ndume and Michael so much.

    I wish a real reporter would take on the REAL story. Maybe that would force some change. Contact your local news station and direct them to Dawn's blog!!!!!

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    1. Penny very skillfully controls all visits from the outside. She interprets Koko's gestures for the audience so there's a lot of wiggle room for Penny when vocalizing.

      For example, Koko will frequently ask to see your nipples by flicking hers while pointing and staring at yours.

      Penny will say "oh she means 'people'. Nipple sounds like people. She's asking to see more people."

      Wait a minute, Koko signs over a thousand words (maybe it's up to 2000 now. I can't keep track) and 'people' is not one of them?

      Believe me, when she flicks her nips Koko wants to see your boobs.

      Oh, and the pockets in Penny's vest are not full of research material. Nope, they're full of nuts and other treats for Koko.

      Every time Koko responds to Penny's questions she gets a treat. You don't see this because the camera moves away or stops when Ron (the cameraman) sees Penny reaching for a pocket.

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  15. What can we regular people actively do to help get Ndume OUT OF THERE and ....I don't think a zoo is right..I want him to live in a sanctuary where he can roam free and be a TRUE Silverback to a group of gorillas. His living conditions are almost like a concentration camp!

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    1. Megan, I share your dream but, unfortunately, I don't know of any sanctuary that would offer Ndume that ideal life. Also, keep in mind that Ndume has lived for a long time in abnormal conditions (to say the least!) and will need specialized care to help him adapt to life with other gorillas. The gorilla experts in the zoo community can offer that care. I continue to hope that Cincinnati Zoo will do the right thing for Ndume, and bring him out of there.

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  16. Great Blog. Keep up the good work.

    I have followed Koko & Co for many years now. From the offset, I have always felt that Penny Patterson came across as insincere.

    It is clear in the footage of Koko that we have a Gorilla going through a few motions to get food (that often falls out of Patterson's pocket on camera). I also do not believe that there was EVER any intention for Koko to reproduce. What I find astonishing is that Patterson was still using the 'let's get poor Koko a baby' technique when Koko was well into her forties.

    I note that now Koko is sadly reaching a very old age that a lot more information and pictures are being placed on the Gorilla Foundation's site of Ndume. Is this the next back-up plan? - support Ndume have a baby in memory of Koko.

    It breaks my heart the conditions these beautiful gorillas have to live in. Thank you to the carers for sharing your knowledge. If only the fooled knew.

    * I have to add that I am not suggesting that Penny Patterson does not care for the Gorillas or does not hold any sadness or regrets. That I will never know.


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  17. Recently I posted a few comments on The Gorilla Foundation Facebook page that were a little too close to the truth. Their reaction? The comments were deleted and I was blocked from the page.

    Even more recently I joined the "Koko the Gorilla" group. I posted the truth on this group as well. Soon after, my comments were deleted and I was kicked out of that group too (LOL!).

    Aye Carumba! I stated I was a former staffer at TGF. I guess they were uncomfortable with someone posting who actually knows the truth.

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    1. And here are your comments from your blog...good to read too:
      http://johnnysafkow.com/2014/02/08/gorilla-mountain-home-for-koko-ndume/#more-75

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    2. Thanks Anonymous, I would like to add that since my comment above on January 05, 2014 I have unblocked from the Koko the Gorilla group (which is not the official TGF FB page) and invited to re-join. Here is a link to that group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KokoTheGorilla/10152326124440211/?notif_t=like I am however still blocked from commenting on the official TGF FB page.

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    3. I had left some comments just a few minutes ago saying I don't understand people saying they would rather see Koko in a zoo than under the care of TGF. I see now though with your blog some of the reasons people might think that. Really sad to hear... I still really hope that Koko has lived a more fulfilling life than she would have in a zoo. But I realize I have no idea if that's true or not, just my pointless hopes :(

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  18. GF is taking money from kids and little old ladies to fund their retirement to Maui. Penny hasn't published any current literature in over 15 years, she just rehashes her old journals. Last I heard, they are facing pushback from the island of Maui (despite the agreement with Maui Pineapple Company) because gorillas aren't native. And Penny is insane. She would keep gorilla urine in the same fridge with the caregivers' food. And her methods of sample collection were pretty sloppy. During the rains one year the power went out and they kept the trailers warm using a generator, which blew exhaust into the garage where the food is prepped, making the caregivers sick. She also refused to give Koko a physical, but would bring in psychics. There is a reason for the insanely high turnover rate.

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    1. God---This is all so depressing to read.

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  19. Ndume would regurge and throw it at you if you were new. Once he got comfortable with you he was an absolute sweetheart, fun, gentle, playful, and goofy. I wish so much more for him.

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  20. Do you know what the status is of Koko and Ndume?

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