Silverback Ndume Return to Cincinnati Zoo

Posted August 29, 2018
Photo provided by The Gorilla Foundation/

CINCINNATI (August 29, 2018) –  The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gorilla Species Survival Plan® (SSP), has recommended that silverback gorilla Ndume [nnn-doo-may] return to his original home at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  The 37-year-old gorilla was born in Cincinnati and moved to the Gorilla Foundation in California in 1991 to be a social companion for female gorilla Koko.

“Since Koko’s unfortunate passing earlier this summer, we’ve been considering the best options for Ndume,” said Dr. Kristen Lukas, Chair of the Gorilla SSP. “The SSP is confident that the Cincinnati Zoo will provide Ndume with outstanding care, access to modern, flexible, and specialized gorilla living areas, and a myriad of socialization options as he makes this transition. We’re all looking forward to seeing Ndume thrive in the company of other gorillas.”

Cincinnati Zoo and the Gorilla SSP have collaborated with the Gorilla Foundation on Ndume’s care.  The Zoo’s curator of primates, Ron Evans and members of the Gorilla SSP, have routinely visited the Gorilla Foundation and have found him to be in good physical condition and behaviorally a normal healthy silverback.

“Ndume is very special to me, as he is one of the very first gorillas I have had the privilege to work with in my 35 years at the Cincinnati Zoo. I have known him since he was two years old,” said Evans.  “I am grateful to have had the chance to work with Penny Patterson and the Gorilla Foundation team during his years as a companion for Koko.  I now look forward to guiding him through this next phase of his life back in Cincinnati.”

The Cincinnati Zoo will work closely with the Gorilla Foundation to facilitate Ndume’s return to Cincinnati.  A date for the transfer has not yet been determined, but the SSP has requested that the move take place as soon as possible so he can begin the socialization process with other gorillas.

“We completed upgrades to Gorilla World last year and have doubled the size of our gorilla habitats and specialized care spaces,” said Evans.  “We can provide Ndume with a flexible, accommodating home and excellent opportunities to be near and cohabitate with other gorillas, a critical foundation need for this highly social species.”

“Assuring Ndume is in the best possible social and welfare situation is everyone’s top priority,” said Dr. Candice Dorsey, AZA’s Senior Vice President of Conservation, Management and Welfare Sciences. “The Gorilla SSP and Cincinnati Zoo are taking the appropriate steps to assure Ndume has the best possible future.”

The Cincinnati Zoo has been caring for gorillas since 1931 and has made significant contributions to gorilla populations in Zoos across the country.  The 50th gorilla born at the Zoo, Elle, lives in a family group with one of the first gorillas born in Cincinnati, 48-year-old Samantha.

There are about 765 gorillas in zoos worldwide including approximately 360 that are managed by the Gorilla SSP. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink.  The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests.  More than 1,000 gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year.

The Cincinnati Zoo supports wild gorilla conservation efforts like the Nouabalé-Ndoki Project in the Republic of Congo.  This project includes the Mbeli Bai Study, the longest running research being done with wild western lowland gorillas.  Through research, local education programs, publications and documentaries, the Mbeli Bai Study and other gorilla related efforts there are raising international awareness for gorillas and their struggle for survival. For more information, visit