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How Gorilla Ndume Is Doing Two Months After His Return

Ndume with an enrichment item. Keepers say he's adjusting well to his new home.
Courtesty of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
Ndume with an enrichment item. Keepers say he's adjusting well to his new home.

The Cincinnati Zoo says it is progressing methodically as it re-integrates a gorilla that spent the last nearly 30 years in California.

Curator of Primates Ron Evans says Ndume is eating well, using his enrichment items, and is getting to know the female gorillas with whom he'll eventually share a space.

"He's got them across the way from him so that's good. He initially puffed up like silverbacks do when they see new gorillas. Since then, he's settled down, he eats comfortably in full view of the girls, which is a good sign of progress when you're doing these very methodical introduction steps."

The 37-year-old gorilla - who turns 38 in October - has checked out three of the five Gorilla World living spaces.

"Our goal is to get him very comfortable in all the spaces that he will eventually share with his future girlfriends," Evans says, explaining that is always an early step.

Evans reports Ndume is healthy, uses his enrichment items like toys with food treats, and isn't exhibiting behavioral issues.

The zoo won't say when Ndume will be introduced to the public, insisting it won't set timelines but rather move at Ndume's pace.

"We're very considerate of Ndume and his limited experience during the years at The Gorilla Foundation and know that we just don't throw him into a new phase as quick as maybe you would a gorilla who's been a little more savvy and around gorillas more in recent years," says Evans.

Ndume did grow up with other gorillas before ultimately being sent to The Gorilla Foundation in 1991 to be a companion for "Koko," the gorilla famous for her supposed ability to communicate through sign language. Koko, however, mostly rejected Ndume and the two lived separately though in close proximity until her death in June 2018. Another gorilla named "Michael" lived at the foundation for a while as well.

The Cincinnati Zoo sued California-based The Gorilla Foundation in October after it refused to return Ndume as contractually required. The zoo argued the foundation was violating the contract and it wasn't good for Ndume to live in isolation. The foundation countered, saying it was worried about Ndume's current and future health.

Federal Judge Richard Seeborg ruled in the zoo's favor and ordered Ndume be returned to Cincinnati in June. Ndume arrived June 14. Several weeks later, the zoo reported Ndume was settling in wellto his new surroundings, and released the following video of him checking out the indoor habitat.

Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

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.