A federal judge in California is ordering a 37-year-old gorilla named "Ndume" be returned to the Cincinnati Zoo.
Judge Richard Seeborg granted the zoo's request for a quick decision without a court case, recognizing and upholding a 2015 contract between the zoo and The Gorilla Foundation (TGF).
The Cincinnati Zoo filed a federal suit against the California-based The Gorilla Foundation in October after the foundation refused to return Ndume, who was loaned to it in 1991 as a companion for "Koko," the gorilla who became famous for what was believed to be her ability to communicate with sign language.
Koko died last year and the foundation refused to return Ndume, arguing doing so would be detrimental to his health, possibly even causing premature death.
The judge's decision concludes the foundation's concerns - which he points out have been addressed by the zoo - did not rise to the level of illegality requiring a trial. "There is no evidence," he writes, "the discovery (process) The Gorilla Foundation proposes would uncover evidence creating a triable issue of fact."
Seeborg is directing both sides to work together on the best way to transport and assimilate Ndume, writing:
"The Zoo is directed to exercise the utmost good faith in entertaining any suggestions or requests made by TGF, without regard to the fact that it may believe the protocols and plans it has already adopted are sufficient. TGF, in turn, is to exercise the utmost good faith in presenting any suggestions or requests, and is directed to bear in mind that the question of whether Ndume will be transferred to the Zoo is no longer subject to negotiation."
In a statement to WVXU, the Cincinnati Zoo says it "is pleased that the court is enforcing the loan agreement as it is written.
"We look forward to working with The Gorilla Foundation to transfer Ndume to Cincinnati safely as soon as possible, so that he can once again live with other gorillas."
An attorney for The Gorilla Foundation tells WVXU officials do not wish to comment at this time.
The court ruling indicates the sides have 30 days from Feb. 1 to create and submit a plan to transport Ndume to Cincinnati.