San Francisco

Judge Rules Bay Area Foundation Must Return Gorilla to Cincinnati Zoo on Thursday

Ndume, the gorilla, was brought to the Bay Area to be a companion to Koko, the gorilla famed for learning sign language

A male silverback gorilla is slated to return to the Ohio zoo where he was born, after a months-long court battle.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco ruled recently that The Gorilla Foundation in California must transfer 37-year-old Ndume (nnn-DOO’-may) Thursday to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Cincinnati Zoo officials declined to discuss transfer plans until after Ndume is back.

Zoo officials sought to bring Ndume home after Koko, the gorilla famed for learning sign language, died last June and left Ndume by himself. He was loaned to the foundation in 1991 to be Koko’s companion.

Zoo officials and animal rights groups disagreed with the foundation’s argument that the transfer would harm Ndume. Seeborg said there should be no further delays.

The foundation issued a statement Wednesday:

We want to update everyone regarding our concerns about Ndume’s transfer this week. He had recent symptoms and a positive lab test result showing Balantidium coli (B coli), which is a serious parasitic infection that can be activated by stress. Due to this, we were concerned about proceeding with the transfer until the condition cleared. We have continued concern for his health, even though his first follow-up lab test results looked good, because an experienced physician had prescribed treatment and testing for a longer period of time before transfer.

The Gorilla Foundation and Cincinnati Zoo have made positive progress together over the past few months toward successfully transitioning Ndume to his new location in Cincinnati. Ndume will be accompanied throughout the entire trip by both his TGF and CZ caregivers to make sure the transfer goes well, and they will keep him as safe and comfortable as possible. Additionally, one of Ndume's favorite TGF caregivers will be staying with him at the Cincinnati Zoo for the next two months to help with the adaptation process.

Note that it has always been our opinion that transfering Ndume back to a zoo after life in a sanctuary for over 27 years — an unprecedented move that has never been done before — presents risks that may outweigh the perceived benefits. Time will tell; however we will do everything possible to work with CZ to help minimize those risks for Ndume.

Whatever your thoughts and feelings about Ndume’s transfer, the TGF and CZ team ask that you please be respectful of Ndume and those who are assisting him and that you please stay away from the TGF site or any location along his transfer route. Any unusual presence may unintentionally interfere with his safety. Thank you for understanding, as we don’t want to cause Ndume any undue stress. While gorillas are the largest great ape species, they are also the most emotionally fragile.

We are deeply saddened that our beloved Ndume is leaving and wish the very best for his happiness, good health and peace of mind.

Finally, we are extremely grateful to our wonderful caregivers and volunteers who have loved, cared for, and communicated with gorillas Ndume, Koko and Michael over the years, and who have always had their best interests at heart.

This has been a most difficult time for all of us. We would appreciate your positive thoughts and support for Ndume to help him safely transition, and for his new caregivers to learn to love and understand him as much as we have.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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