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Judge Rules Gorilla Ndume Must Return To Cincinnati By June 30

Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo

A federal judge in California is ruling a gorilla named "Ndume" should be returned to the Cincinnati Zoo no later than June 30.

Judge Richard Seeborg says the transfer from The Gorilla Foundation to the zoo should happen at the "earliest possible time that is both practical and safe."

Ndume was supposed to fly into CVG Wednesday via DHL, but that was canceled last week over objections by The Gorilla Foundation, where he's been living since 1991. The foundation is worried Ndume's B. coli condition might flare-up and cause problems.

The Zoo and the Foundation jointly filed Wednesday asking the court to intervene.

The judge's ruling falls short of setting a particular date, June 12, as the zoo requested. However, he also says The Gorilla Foundation failed to make a persuasive case that Ndume's condition "presents a reason to delay the transfer."

Seeborg is directing the zoo to monitor the B. coli situation "and to modify its plans to any extent that may be warranted." He's also telling the parties to work together to find consensus, though ultimately, Ndume will be returned whether The Gorilla Foundation likes it or not.

"While defendants may seek relief from any transfer date to which they do not consent, they are reminded that the question of whether Ndume will be transferred to the Zoo is no longer subject to negotiation, and they are advised any showing of undue risk from the transfer will have to be substantially more compelling than that presented in conjunction with the Case Management Conference Statement," he writes.

Neither side is permitted by the court to speak with the media about the ongoing case.

The Back Story

Seeborg in February ordered Ndume be returned to the Cincinnati Zoo from The Gorilla Foundation. Ndume had been living there alone following the 2018 death of "Koko," the gorilla famous for her alleged knowledge of sign language.

The Cincinnati Zoo filed a federal suit against the California-based The Gorilla Foundation last October after the foundation refused to return Ndume, who was loaned to it in 1991 as a companion for Koko. The foundation argued doing so would be detrimental to Ndume's health, possibly even causing premature death.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, PETA, and eventually the court sided with the Cincinnati Zoo.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.