Cincinnati zoo heading to court in fight to bring silverback gorilla Ndume home

Cincinnati zoo heading to court in fight to bring silverback gorilla Ndume home
The Cincinnati Zoo is taking their fight to bring Ndume back to the Tri-State to court. (Schupp, Kim)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo says they’re fighting back against a foundation that is currently housing a Cincinnati-born gorilla.

Zoo officials filed a brief in federal court Thursday refuting TGF’s claims the transfer would harm the gorilla. The Zoo says TGF’s claims the move would hurt or even kill Ndume are not true.

"Common sense and scientific evidence contradict TGF’s claim. We’ve successfully managed 160 gorilla transfers to and from Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos over the last decade,” Chair of the Gorilla Species Survival Program Kristen Lukas said.

The program oversees the care of more than 350 gorillas in nearly 50 AZA zoos.

“Moving gorillas is a safe and necessary aspect of ensuring proper socialization, maximizing animal welfare, and enriching the lives of all gorillas in human care," Lukas said.

The 37-year-old silverback western lowland gorilla was born in Cincinnati and moved to The Gorilla Foundation (TGF) in California in 1991 to be a social companion for female gorilla Koko.

READ MORE: Cincinnati Zoo fights to bring silverback gorilla Ndume back

Cincinnati Zoo fights to bring back silverback gorilla

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recommended that based on their Gorilla Species Survivial Plan which was clarified in 2015, Ndume should be returned back to Cincinnati when Koko dies.

The female gorilla passed away in June and Ndume began living alone for the first time in his life.

The zoo filed a complaint with TGF in October over getting Ndume back home to the Tri-State.

They said they had to take legal action because the foundation ignored their request for zoo staff to come to California and start conditioning Ndume for transfer.

TGF President Penny Patterson told Maynard she did not intend to cooperate with the move.

In December, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg recommended out-of-court mediation between the zoo and TGF.

He wrote that he believed both groups appeared to value what’s best for the gorilla and ordered them to submit a joint proposal. That plan appears to have failed with both parties still at odds.

The zoo says they’ve been working to bring Ndume back to Cincinnati since August when the Gorilla Species Survival Program recommended the transfer.

“What is terrible for gorillas is being left in isolation, which is what’s happening to Ndume right now at TGF,” Lukas said. “That’s why all parties agreed that Ndume would leave the Foundation when Koko passed away, so Ndume wouldn’t be alone.”

PETA also got involved in the fight and released a statement about what they believe are Ndume’s best interests.

Gorillas' lives revolve around their families, yet the Gorilla Foundation is keeping Ndume in solitary confinement. He deserves to have the opportunity to thrive and socialize with other gorillas, and PETA supports the Cincinnati Zoo’s efforts to remove him from the Gorilla Foundation’s tumbledown facility, with its history of failures in both cleaning and veterinary care.

PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders.

A hearing is scheduled for Jan 24 in California court.

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