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Court Orders Meaningful Mediation for Ndume

Court Orders Meaningful Mediation for Ndume

Ndume Smiles

December 17, 2018

The Gorilla Foundation caregivers have been a constant part of Ndume’s life for 27 years. They have been there for him, day after day, after CZBG determined that he could not live with other gorillas. For that reason, he was living in solitary confinement at the Cincinnati Zoo. That was the only reason the Zoo was willing to transport him to TGF. At that time he was a young gorilla, and ultimately lived with Koko for most of his life. He has now lived with same primary caregivers for that entire time period. He is as close to his caregivers as they are to him.

Unlike his experience in a public zoo, where he was extremely stressed and routinely regurgitated, only to throw his vomit and feces at patrons as well as his caregivers, he has lived a peaceful life at the Foundation Sanctuary. In fact, he has now lived far beyond the average life expectancy of a gorilla in a public zoo. He is comfortable in the peace and quiet of the Gorilla Foundation sanctuary, where his public zoo stresses and related behavioral problems ended long ago.

While the Zoo publicly claims that transporting gorillas is routine, they fail to mention that death is also a predictable consequence in a statistically significant number of transports. As the age of a gorilla goes up, the probability of serious transport related problems increase as well. The public records for zoo transfers show that not only do gorillas die during and after transport, but there is no zoo experience transferring a zoo born gorilla at his advanced age (37). Nor, do they have any experience transporting a gorilla that fared extremely poorly in a public zoo environment, followed by an extremely positive experience at a private sanctuary, back to a public zoo environment. The Gorilla Foundation believes that the risks and stresses he would face are far too great. The Foundation is not willing to risk his life, in reliance upon zoo assurances. The Foundation position is supported by the testimony (already submitted) of multiple gorilla experts from around the world.

Rather than address the real risks Ndume will face, the zoo reports that it's conversations with the Gorilla Foundation "went nowhere" and that suing "was a last resort." But, the documented communications between Cincinnati Zoo and the Gorilla Foundation (attached to the complaint filed by the Zoo) confirm that the Gorilla Foundation repeatedly asked for information concerning how the Zoo proposed to transport Ndume back and integrate him into a gorilla population as an elderly gorilla, when they were incapable of safely doing so when he was much younger. That request was never answered. Similarly, multiple Foundation communications asked the zoo to consider meeting with one or more mediators to discuss what would be best for Ndume under the circumstances. As their own record reflects, the Zoo again refused to respond. Therefore, to date the Zoo has failed to provide any information about their "plan" assuming Ndume survived his transfer back to Ohio, while also refusing to consider meeting to discuss how best to care for Ndume under these circumstances.

Given this history, the Gorilla Foundation welcomes the Order of the Court requiring the parties to submit a joint proposal for a meaningful mediation. The parties need to place Ndume’s feelings, health and comfort first.

The only reason Ndume is now living alone since Koko’s recent passing, is because (as the Foundation recently learned) the Zoo and its parent organization, the AZA ( Association of Zoos and Aquariums) have blocked all Foundation attempts to bring more gorillas in to live with him in sanctuary. To protect Ndume, as their first priority, the Foundation is now reaching out to other organizations and will hopefully soon have the ability to offer Ndume the opportunity to live out his life in the peaceful sanctuary home he has known for the past 27 years, in the company of one or more other gorillas.

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