CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Zoo on Friday welcomed back a 37-year-old male silverback gorilla after a legal battle and some 28 years after he went to California.
The zoo said Ndume arrived Friday morning and was settling in behind the scenes in its Gorilla World area.
"We are thrilled that Ndume is finally here," Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said in a statement. "We've been preparing for his arrival for many months and are ready to offer him an environment, schedule and social status that work for him."
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 People for Ethical Treatment of Animals supported Ndume's return to Cincinnati and said in a statement that he's back in his home, supported by expert care and the chance to socialize with other gorillas.
The Cincinnati Zoo's curator of primates, Ron Evans, said it could be "many weeks" before the public can see Ndume. He said the first priorities are making sure he is comfortable with his home, keepers and routines. Introductions to the zoo's other gorillas will be made at his pace.
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 .
The foundation said this week it was sad Ndume was moving .
The Cincinnati Zoo says Ndume is among 50 gorillas born there. Ndume is a western lowland gorilla , which are critically endangered.
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