CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - Ndume, a 37-year-old male silverback gorilla, has returned home to the Cincinnati Zoo.
Zoo officials made the announcement Friday morning, one day after a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that The Gorilla Foundation in California must move Ndume back Thursday to the zoo, where he was born.
Ndume is settling in behind the scenes in Gorilla World, according to the zoo.
“We are thrilled that Ndume is finally here. We’ve been preparing for his arrival for many months and are ready to offer him an environment, schedule and social status that work for him,” said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard.
Zoo officials sought to bring Ndume home after Koko, the gorilla famed for learning sign language, died last year and left Ndume alone.
The gorilla was loaned to the foundation in 1991 to be Koko’s companion with the proviso he’d return to Cincinnati after her death.
The foundation argued as late as this week the transfer would harm Ndume.
Zoo officials and animal rights groups disagreed.
“Gorillas require and desire to be near other gorillas,” said the Zoo’s Curator of Primates, Ron Evans. “I first met Ndume when he was 3 years old and have followed him on his life journey. He provided a great service for Koko as a gorilla companion, and we’re so happy that he can now rejoin our gorilla family.”
Ndume is in close proximity to the Zoo’s two gorilla groups, and the plan is for him to eventually form a third group. Introductions will be done at his pace, and the gorilla team will assess which females are the best fit for him.
“It may be many weeks before the public can see Ndume. Like with all new gorillas, we want to make sure that he is comfortable with his new home, keepers, and routines before introducing him to zoo guests,” said Evans. “Patience is always the key when acclimating new gorillas.”
PETA filed an amicus brief in support of the Cincinnati Zoo’s lawsuit against The Gorilla Foundation.
Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement said in a statement: “After years of pressure from PETA, Ndume is now back in his first home—his real home—supported by expert care and with a chance to socialize with gorilla companions.”
For more information about Ndume and PETA’s brief, please click here.
The Cincinnati Zoo has been caring for gorillas since 1931 and has made significant contributions to gorilla populations in Zoos across the country. The 50th gorilla born at the Zoo, Elle, lives in a family group with one of the first gorillas born in Cincinnati, 49-year-old Samantha.
There are about 765 gorillas in zoos worldwide including approximately 360 that are managed by the Gorilla SSP. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with fewer than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests. More than 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year.
The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Nouabalé-Ndoki Project in the Republic of Congo. This project includes the Mbeli Bai Study, the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas. Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study and other gorilla related efforts there are raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival.
For more information, visit www.cincinnatizoo.org.