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After months-long court battle, Ndume the gorilla has returned to the Cincinnati Zoo

Posted at 8:42 AM, Jun 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-14 12:33:35-04

CINCINNATI — After a months-long court battle, Ndume the gorilla has returned to the place he was born.

The 38-year-old male silverback gorilla arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on Friday, zoo officials said.

Zoo Director Thane Maynard said crews have been preparing for the gorilla’s arrival for months and are ready to adjust his environment to fit his needs.

“It’s an exciting day at the zoo,” Maynard said. “We are here to inspire people with wildlife, and everybody is inspired that Ndume is coming back home. He was born here, he needs to live with other gorillas and he will soon do that again.”

The Gorilla Foundation in California was under federal court order to transfer Ndume on Thursday for a flight to Ohio.He was loaned in 1991 to be a companion for Koko, the gorilla famed for learning sign language. Cincinnati Zoo officials sought Ndume's return after Koko died last June.

The Gorilla Foundation contended the transfer would harm Ndume. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco ruled in February that the gorilla should be returned , and recently wrote it was time to end delays.

Zookeepers did not tranquilize Ndume; they spent months training him to get into a crate. He slept most of the way, and keepers gave him food and water during the trip.

Zoo officials said Ndume is now getting used to his new surroundings and is already climbing inside the gorilla habitat. He is separated from the other gorillas for now, but he is able to see them.

Zookeepers do not have a timeline for when he will make his public debut.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.