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The Cincinnati Zoo files suit to have their gorilla returned

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden filed a lawsuit against the Gorilla Foundation in federal court in the Northern District of California on Oct. 25. In their filing, the Cincinnati Zoo requests that the animal sanctuary return Ndume, the male companion of their deceased gorilla Koko. She died while being cared for at the California facility on June 19. He was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1981 and loaned to the sanctuary in 1991.

An agreement signed between the two reportedly stated that Ndume was being loaned to the California sanctuary so that he could breed with Koko. They never facilitated this though. They instead kept the two gorillas in distinct enclosures for years.

Another agreement signed between the two in 2015 allowed the California facility to keep Ndume until Koko's death. After that, the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (GSSP) would be allowed to recommend an appropriate Association of Zoos and Aquariums facility where he could be placed. They later decided to return him to Cincinnati Zoo as there were 10 other gorillas already housed there.

The Cincinnati Zoo said in its filing that their main motivation in getting him back was to help keep his species from becoming extinct. There are as few as 175,000 gorillas in the wild. Although 765 are housed in zoos around the world, only 360 of them are part of the GSSP. Their goal is to take these animals housed at different zoos and breed them. They hope to save them by doing so.

GSSP had planned to place the Ndume back into the Cincinnati Zoo by August. By September, though, the Gorilla Foundation put the zoo on notice that at 37 years old, it was far too dangerous to transfer him. They said that they were keeping him and looking to find females to serve as his new companions.

The GSSP responded by saying that he has at least another decade to live and that the isolation he was slated to endure was going to be far worse than the transfer in between facilities. The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for Jan. 29, 2019.

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