202

Judge: Solve dispute over pal to sign-language gorilla Koko

In this 2016 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the silverback gorilla Ndume picks up a toy at The Gorilla Foundation's preserve in California's Santa Cruz mountains. The zoo that's suing the conservatory for the return of the gorilla has asked a judge to rule in the zoo's favor without going to trial. Zoo officials claim Ndume has since lived in isolation to his detriment, while the foundation says a transfer would harm him and pose unnecessary risk. (Ron Evans/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via AP)

CINCINNATI (AP) — A judge has ordered the Cincinnati Zoo and a conservatory to resolve a custody dispute over a gorilla loaned as a companion to the late Koko, who was famous for mastering sign language.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg recommended out-of-court mediation Monday, writing that the zoo and The Gorilla Foundation appear to value what’s best for the 37-year-old silverback gorilla named Ndume. The organizations have until Thursday to submit a joint proposal.

The zoo sued in October for Ndume’s return. The gorilla was loaned to the California-based foundation in 1991 under a contract revised to guarantee his transfer after Koko’s death.

Zoo officials claim Ndume has since lived in isolation to his detriment. The foundation says a transfer would harm him and pose unnecessary risk.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.