A typical day in the life of KOKO, by one of her caregivers

A typical Koko shift went like this:

Wake her up around 9-9:30am. Open her drapes and window covers from the outside of her trailer. We’d make noise as we approached calling out her name as to not startle her.

Prior to wake up we would be in the kitchen preparing her breakfast tray of fruits and veggies, quinoa, and split pea soup with smoked turkey, and coffee. The soup and coffee were used to bribe Koko to take her pills.

Koko would be slow to wake up but you’d sit on her porch and talk to her trying to get her to come over to the mesh so you could start hand feeding her the goods from the tray.

Penny would be at her home watching your every move on the security camera system. The phone would ring and it would be her telling you what to do or passive aggressively telling you what you didn’t do or should have done. She’d make stuff up too.

Koko would mosey over to the mesh and want to smell your breath. She liked that. You’d blow in her face and she’d make a purring sound. She’d also ask to see your nipples which we always obliged.

Koko hated the pills, sometimes 20, 30, or more she was required to take with breakfast. This was always a struggle. She seemed to delay the entire process to avoid them.

Once she was up and used the toilet we’d try to get her moving around. Ideally we’d coax her with the food tray to come out of her trailer and into the enclosed yard. During this time Ndume would be watching from his trailer because he knew that as soon as Koko was locked back inside her trailer he’d be released to the yard enclosure, and he couldn’t wait. He’d often get super impatient and bang on the walls raising all kinds of hell. The gorillas were not allowed to be in the same enclosure at the same time.

As Koko aged she seemed to be pensive and not at all confident alone int he outdoor enclosure. Also she seemed afraid Ndume was going to be released into the yard before she was safely locked back inside.

You’d feed Koko what she wanted from the tray saving the pea soup and coffee for the end after pills. She’d delay the process asking for another nipple show.

Koko would swallow the pills but you’d have to ask her to open her mouth and stick out her tongue to make sure she swallowed them. With pills out of the way she’d get the good stuff then it was back inside her trailer she’d waddle.

Once inside she’d want to see your nipples again and it would be time to clean her trailer. Koko’s trailer has two small gorilla rooms. We’d lock Koko in one room while we cleaned the other. She’d sit and “read” or watch you clean. About 30 mins later we’d switch rooms and she’d entertain herself or nap while you cleaned room two.

With the rooms cleaned you’d turn on the TV and ask her what movie she wanted to watch. She’d watch TV or nap while you entered the morning routine in the journal for Penny to review later, even though Penny sat at home watching your every move.

You would now have quality time to relax with Koko, or maybe try to engage with her or play a game. If other staffers were around you’d invite them over to break up the day. We’d also feed Koko her lunch and make her take more pills.

Around 2-3pm Penny and Ron would show up for their private time with Koko. During this time Penny would cover the security cameras with post-its so we couldn’t observe their private activities.

After a while you’d get a call from Penny saying Koko was ready for a “Porch Party”. We hated porch parties.

Penny felt Koko was depressed, and she probably was. Penny would have staff dress up in clownish costumes for “Koko’s Porch Party” and we were required to act slap happy goofy to entertain Koko as a group. Koko would tell us where to sit and what to do. She really enjoyed bossing us around. One by one she’d take turns smelling our breath and ask to see our nipples. Sometimes we’d flash her or tell her and sign “later” as to avoid flashing our coworkers too.

After Porch Party Penny would leave to prepare Koko’s hot people food dinner and we’d monitor Koko, show our nips, and entertain Koko until Penny returned with dinner.

We’d then do the menu for the following day and that would be the end of a typical Koko shift.

Ndume shifts were different and not all staff were trained with both gorillas for whatever reason or reasons Penny had in her head. She decided who worked with which gorilla.

Some other Koko tidbits:

She’d fart and laugh at your reaction. Sometimes she’d sign “stink”.

If she was mad she’d bang on the bars at you or she’d ball up her fist and pull back like she was going to punch you in the face. This always made me laugh because her face would scrunch up with a furrowed brow as if to say “why I oughta…….”.

She loved to play “chase” and enjoyed a good back scratch.

If any other TGF caregivers would like to add, or if I’ve forgotten anything, please feel free to comment.

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