A target date is set for when a gorilla named "Ndume" will be transferred back to the Cincinnati Zoo.
Representatives from the zoo will begin visiting Ndume at The Gorilla Foundation in California the week of March 18 to prepare the silverback for transfer on May 13.
The zoo and the foundation have been at odds over Ndume's fate, with the zoo filing suit for his return late last year. In February, a federal judge in California ordered the gorilla be returned to Cincinnati.
According to court documents, zoo officials will begin crate training Ndume so he becomes comfortable with the enclosure in which he'll be flown to Cincinnati. They'll also ensure he's comfortable with hand injections should he need some kind of anesthesia for the trip. The goal is that Ndume will be content in the crate and not need the sedative.
The foundation will also turn over medical records and update zookeepers on any special needs.
The gorilla will be transported by DHL, which the zoo says it has successfully partnered with on "at least 11 other ape transfers as well as transfers of many other large species."
Zoo and foundation staffers will accompany the animal and a foundation caregiver "is welcome to stay in Cincinnati for an additional two months after transfer and participate in Ndume's acclimation," court records state. "A second caregiver is also welcome on-site at [the zoo] during the first week following Ndume's transfer."
The zoo says local staff members will all be briefed beforehand on Ndume's care plan and he'll be quarantined for one month to 45 days with around-the-clock staff on zoo grounds and video monitoring. After the quarantine, the plan is to slowly integrate Ndume into the rest of the Gorilla World facility, including introducing him to two female gorillas. Gorillas typically live in small groups with one silverback male, several females, and any offspring.
The court documents say foundation officials may visit Ndume twice a year, and if at the end of his life, the decision is made that Ndume needs to be euthanized, The Gorilla Foundation caregivers will be notified in advance, if possible, so they may be present.
Ndume was loaned to The Gorilla Foundation 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 in 2018 and the foundation refused to return Ndume, arguing doing so would be detrimental to his health, possibly even causing premature death.