“Enough poop––move him or lose him,” judge tells Gorilla Foundation
SAN FRANCISCO––The Gorilla Foundation, of Woodside, California, ain’t said @#$%, either to mass media or through social media, since Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court of Northern California, who was asked to play Solomon between claimants to Ndume the feces-flinging silverback gorilla, ruled on February 1, 2019 that Ndume must be returned to the Cincinnati Zoo.
The Cincinnati Zoo sent Ndume on loan to the Gorilla Foundation at age 10 in 1991. Ndume became available to the Gorilla Foundation after proving unsuitable for exhibit both in Cincinnati and during a two-year stint at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
Arrived with “gorilla-back” contract
Ndume was sent to the Gorilla Foundation as a potential mate for the signing gorilla Koko, who died in June 2018. Koko, however, rejected Ndume. The two never mated.
The Cincinnati Zoo lent Ndume to the Gorilla foundation under a contract which stipulated that if Koko died before he did, Ndume would either be returned to Cincinnati or be transferred to another gorilla facility approved by the zoo.
The Cincinnati Zoo asked the Gorilla Foundation to return Ndume soon after Koko’s death at age 46. Ndume, 37, was the last gorilla at the Gorilla Foundation, which had three before Michael, 27, died in 2000 at age 27.
Loss of Harambe opened space
Koko died soon after the Cincinnati Zoo opened a new gorilla pavilion, housing 10 resident gorillas already using it, with room for another silverback, since Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland silverback, was shot in May 2016 to facilitate rescuing a three-year-old boy who had fallen into the moat.
Harambe violently swung the boy by one leg moments before the shooting, the boy’s head only inches from the concrete moat wall.
The new Cincinnati Zoo gorilla exhibit had already been designed and funded at the time, but actual construction had not yet started.
Penny Patterson signed “No!”
Gorilla Foundation founder Francine “Penny” Patterson, 71, struggling since Koko’s death to maintain a mission, identity, and revenue stream for her organization, signed “No” to the Cincinnati Zoo request that Ndume be returned.
The only Gorilla Foundation program of note, in many years, had been continuing language exercises with Koko.
The Cincinnati Zoo on October 25, 2018 asked the U.S. District Court of Northern California to enforce the 1991 loan agreement.
“No legal basis to negate contract”
Observing that the Gorilla Foundation is not accredited by the American Zoo Association, and that ““there is no indication it ever intended to seek such accreditation,” Seeborg ruled that “There is no legal basis to negate that agreement now.
“Given that both sides represent that the well-being of Ndume is their paramount interest,” Seeborg wrote, “they are expected to cooperate now to ensure the conditions under which he is transported to the Zoo and begins living there are as optimal as can reasonably be achieved.”
Summarized WCMH-TV of Columbus, Ohio, “Both sides have been ordered to meet and come to an agreement on how and when Ndume will be transported to the Cincinnati Zoo. If an agreement cannot be reached in the next 30 days, the sides have been ordered to file a joint statement on why they have reached an impasse.”
Is order of seizure next?
This could potentially lead to an order of seizure, to forcibly return Ndume to the Cincinnati Zoo irrespective of noncooperation by the Gorilla Foundation.
Many observers rejoiced, including former Gorilla Foundation caregiver John Safkow, founder of the “Ndume Deserves Better” Facebook page and web site, International Primate Protection League founder Shirley McGreal, and PETA Foundation vice president and deputy general counsel Delcianna Winders.
Said Winders in a prepared statement, “PETA celebrates that this judgement represents a new life for Ndume, and is an official court declaration that an intelligent, sensitive gorilla is ‘not ordinary chattel.’ We look to the Gorilla Foundation to follow the court’s order and cooperate with the Cincinnati Zoo without delay, so that Ndume can finally be supported by expert care and have the essential companionship of his fellow gorillas.”
Might the Gorilla Mobile finally be used?
The “reality” television show Monster Garage in 2004 depicted customizer Jesse James and team converting a 2001 Toyota Tundra into “Koko the Gorilla’s personal transport vehicle.”
But the so-called Gorilla Mobile was apparently rarely if ever used, and may no longer be useable. Safkow posted in November 2018 that, “Koko’s ride still sits in the driveway with coyote pee-soaked rags placed in and around the outer body and wheel wells to keep the rats out.”
If the Gorilla Mobile can be made serviceable, however, it might be the most comfortable way for Ndume to make the journney from Woodside to Cincinnati, a 35-hour, 2,600-mile drive straight east via U.S. Interstate 80.