The Cincinnati Zoo & Bontanical Garden is taking legal action against The Gorilla Foundation for the return of a silverback gorilla, Ndume, and the case has drawn support from PETA.
The 37-year-old male was loaned in 1991 to the preserve in California’s Santa Cruz mountains to be a social companion for Koko, the gorilla famous for using sign language to communicate.
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Koko died in June, and zoo officials said in August that Ndume would return to his birthplace in Cincinnati. But now, Cincinnati Zoo leaders say foundation President Penny Patterson said she “did not intent to cooperate with the move” of Ndume, despite the loan agreement, our news parter, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati reported.
In a statement, Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said Koko’s death has left Ndume isolated from other gorillas, and he should be moved back to Cincinnati because Association of Zoos and Aquariums scientists determined it can provide him the best home.
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“We have 10 gorillas, including relatives of his, who can provide socialization opportunities, qualified vets, dedicated, highly-experienced gorilla caregivers, and an excellent AZA-accredited facility that we recently renovated and expanded,” Maynard said.
The suit, filed Thursday, alleges The Gorilla Foundation sent a letter to its followers, which said it planned to keep Ndume and acquire a female gorilla to live with him. Foundation officials then refused to allow Cincinnati Zoo officials to come to the facility to build a crate for transportation in Ndume’s enclosure, the lawsuit says, WCPO reported.
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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals official Delcianna Winders released the following statement in support of the zoo’s decision to file suit: “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.”
Patterson acknowledged Ndume’s need for a social group, but said The Gorilla Foundation will continue trying to bring Ndume gorilla companions, after what she calls many “blocked attempts” by the AZA, the Associated Press reported.
Western lowland gorillas like Ndume are considered to be a critically endangered species, with fewer than 175,000 found in the wild, the AP reported.
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In 2016, a silverback gorilla, Harambe, was killed by Cincinnati Zoo officials after a 3-year-old boy climbed into the closure.