Friday, April 12, 2013

The Gorilla Foundation misleads public on African venture

Go to The Gorilla Foundation website, and you will see lots of schemes designed to get people to donate money. Penny Patterson tries to convince people that Koko wants a baby – which will never happen. Penny likes to raise money for the Maui Preserve – which will never be built. They say they are partnering with the Biosynergy Institute in the Wildlife Protectors Fund – which evidently isn’t funding wildlife protectors at all. The Gorilla Foundation also touts its work in Africa, particularly for the Michael Gorilla Sanctuary – which doesn’t exist as a stand-alone facility.
WPF does not fund wildlife
protectors. It may not even exist.

The Gorilla Foundation website gives potential donors the distinct impression that TGF is intimately involved with the gorillas in Africa’s Mefou Primate Park, but they can’t even get the most basic facts right. Their website says that the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund manages Mefou Primate Park, but CWAF changed its name to Ape Action Africa four years ago. Ape Action Africa is responsible for all the resident animals (now over 330 primates) and for all the costs of managing the park.

The Gorilla Foundation touts its establishment of “Michael Gorilla Sanctuary.” What a laugh. The park has several fenced forest enclosures for housing gorillas, chimpanzees, and several species of monkeys. As I understand it, The Gorilla Foundation helped with the costs of building a gorilla enclosure – 13 years ago, in 2000. They asked that it be dedicated to the memory of gorilla Michael, Koko’s first non-companion, and Ape Action Africa continues to honor that request. Contrary to the impression given by The Gorilla Foundation, I heard from a good source that neither the Gorilla Foundation nor their inactive Wildlife Protectors Fund have contributed to the costs of caring for the seven gorillas who live in that enclosure, since it was built 13 years ago. (Why do I say WPF is inactive? Although The Gorilla Foundation continues to promote the Wildlife Protectors Fund, in order to attract donations, I was unable to find any such charitable organization listed with the Internal Revenue Service.)

Speaking of the Internal Revenue Service... I tried to wade through The Gorilla Foundation's IRS Forms 990, to see what I could find about their bally-hooed support for Michael Gorilla Sanctuary. While the forms are confusing, one thing is clear: The Gorilla Foundation does not support the gorillas who live in the enclosure, and they haven't helped with the support for years.

In their IRS Form 990 for 2007, The Gorilla Foundation claims to have made two donations ($10,000 each, for total contribution of $20,000) to the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund. But those IRS claims may be troublesome. At least one person remembers that the money was for another enclosure, which The Gorilla Foundation promised to fund, but (surprise, surprise) TGF reportedly never came through with the entire $20,000. In any case, this potentially overstated support for another gorilla enclosure seems to be the last for gorillas at the park.

In 2008, they claim $228,251 in Africa "conservation" expenses. They reported no support for the care of the gorillas in the Michael Gorilla enclosure. In their 2009 IRS Form 990, TGF claims they had $159,088 in expenses for "humane education and promotion of gorilla conservation through outreach programs in Africa..." Again, nothing for the support of the gorillas in Michael's enclosure. In the 2010 IRS Form 990 (the last one they've made publicly available at Charity Navigator), TGF claims they had expenses of $38,998 for gorilla conservation, yet they fail to report any contributions or grants to any organization whatsoever -- which may not be surprising, given that they reported a $433,000 operating deficit for the fiscal year ending May 2011.

The Gorilla Foundation website tries to make donors believe it supports and works with an African gorilla sanctuary. It doesn't.

The questions about The Gorilla Foundation's involvement in Mefou Primate Park go beyond the troubling lack of monetary resources for a sanctuary they claim to support. 


The Gorilla Foundation website states that the human caregivers and gorillas at Michael Gorilla Sanctuary “play together as a friendly family of great apes.” Bullshit. Years ago, when the gorillas were young, the caregivers went in with them, but times and policies have changed significantly. Ape Action Africa acts as a responsible sanctuary would; caregivers do not go in the enclosures, even with young apes. Their policy is to minimize human contact as much as possible, so the apes learn to be chimps and gorillas again.

The Gorilla Foundation website also says, “The caregivers and gorillas will begin interspecies communication research programs, to examine their natural communication systems.” It says that developing vocabularies “enables the best sanctuary conditions for apes.” Double bullshit. First, no interspecies communication programs have happened. None are ongoing, and none are planned. Second, Ape Action Africa’s Volunteer Handbook clearly explains that their goal is to give their animals “a safe forest sanctuary home where they can live with their own kind.” They recognize, as The Gorilla Foundation’s Penny Patterson does not, that minimizing human contact and giving rescued apes as natural an environment as possible are the best conditions for them.

Ape Action Africa rescues gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys who have been orphaned as a result of the illegal bushmeat trade and the pet trade. Many of the primates have been badly treated. The last thing rescued primates need is human exploitation in the field of interspecies communication, as practiced by Penny Patterson. 

Apes need people who will listen to their language, to understand what they need. They need peace, and respect for who they are – which is, by all reports, what Ape Action Africa tries to provide. And what The Gorilla Foundation does not.

13 comments:

  1. This organization reminds me of a local Frostburg Maryland church who for the last 30 years has been "building an ark" (as in Noah's ark), soliciting across the United States. The frame stands as a monument of donated money going into the coffers of only the Lord knows who. Sickening.

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  2. Thanks Dawn. I appreciate your hard work, dedication to the truth, and accurately reporting and exposing the Gorilla Foundation, without smoke and mirrors.

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    1. I couldn't do any of it without the tips and insights of people who know the inside workings of the Gorilla Foundation. My only regret is that they must remain anonymous -- I would love to recognize and thank them publicly, but we all know how vindictive Patterson can be.

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  3. Hey Dawn - I don't mind not being anonymous, so I'll post this here ... I was at the so-called "Michael Sanctuary" in 2001 at a PASA meeting. This was when Chris Mitchell still ran "CWAF" which is now AAA (Ape Action Africa) - before Rachel's time, I believe. Anyway, Tony Rosie was also involved, which was good, since Tony was one of the first folk to alert the masses about a little-known issue back then called the "bushmeat crisis" ... It's NOT a sanctuary - just an enclosure, however. I'll send you a photo I took by email, since I don't see how I can post it here. Feel free to use it. Shortly thereafter they said they were helping by donating copies of the book "Koko's Kitten" to help educate the Africans on why they should help gorillas. This was tricky, IMHO, since the idea of a gorilla living in a house more luxurious than most African kids ever knew, and relating to the humanized-gorilla's sadness when the kitten is killed, was NOT a message of conservation, from where I stood. It was insensitive to the African culture and missed the mark, so I'm not sure how far they went with this.

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  4. Why was Michael referred to as a non-companion? I thought he and Koko at least got to play together?

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    1. I don't think so, but that may be another area ripe for some investigation. One insider recently told me: "Luckily Ndume has always been the favorite of the staff....as well as Michael, the other isolated male......at least until the last few years of his life." I was paying attention to the Ndume part, but the comment about Michael spurs my curiosity

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  5. Go ahead, do a search, try to find images of Koko in the same frame with either Michael or Ndume.

    Michael and Ndume never had a chance. Penny wanted Koko all to herself.

    Oh wait a minute, there is the photo-shopped image of Koko and Michael together in the promotional pic for the Maui Resort. Fake, like the Gorilla Foundation.

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  6. Correction. Fake images are Koko with Ndume, not Michael. http://koko.org/preserve/map_sanctuary.html#PHASE1

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    1. Even the Foundation can't find pics of Koko with one of her "non-companions" for their promotional money seeking bullshit.

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  7. So why were Koko and Michael kept apart?

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    1. Simple. Penny cannot bare the thought of sharing Koko with another being, human or gorilla. If Koko was given access to and the ability to socialize with her species she would not be 100% dependent on Penny, and Penny would not be in control 100% of the time.

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  8. Is there any accredited facility out there willing and able to take Ndume if the Gorilla SSP is able to move him from the Gorilla Foundation?

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  9. Michael was a tool. Ndume is a tool. The Foundation must create and maintain the illusion of trying to provide a foundation for Koko's family unit.

    A pretend male for Koko is the beginning, so they've done their part. But they need more money for the rest, just like they need it for Maui and their bogus conservation illusions.

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