A federal court ruled in favor of Ndume, a gorilla who spent several months completely isolated from others of his species after Koko, the famed signing gorilla, passed away in June 2018. The Cincinnati Zoo fought to offer Ndume a more appropriate environment with opportunities for socialization and provide him with expert care. PETA filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief to support the transfer, and nearly 68,000 PETA members and supporters wrote to The Gorilla Foundation asking that it move Ndume without delay. Now, the Cincinnati Zoo and The Gorilla Foundation have come to an agreement on Ndume’s transfer, which will take place in mid-May—nearly a year after Koko’s death.
UPDATE: A federal court has ruled that The Gorilla Foundation must relinquish Ndume and allow him to return to the Cincinnati Zoo, where he can finally have the company of other gorillas.
Just about everyone has heard of Koko the gorilla, who was made famous for her use of American Sign Language. As the first gorilla ever to learn a human language, she helped blur the lines that humans try to draw between themselves and other animals. But she was never able to live as freely as she deserved, and Ndume—a male gorilla who was acquired as a “mate” for Koko but who never successfully integrated with her—hasn’t been able to either.
Though the gorillas rarely had contact with each other, it was decided that Ndume would remain at The Gorilla Foundation (TGF) until Koko passed away—at which point he would be returned to the Cincinnati Zoo, the accredited facility that loaned him to TGF. When Koko died in June 2018, rather than upholding its agreement to let Ndume live with other gorillas, TGF has refused to let him go and has fought the Cincinnati Zoo in every possible way.
Gorillas are intelligent, curious, and highly social animals with complex physical and psychological needs. Their lives revolve around their families. If TGF had Ndume’s best interests in mind, he would already be in expert care at the Cincinnati Zoo, where he would finally have an opportunity to live in a normal social group. Instead, he has had to live completely alone since Koko’s passing. Over the years, TGF has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its deteriorating facilities and failure to provide adequate veterinary care. Ndume deserves so much better.