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Baby Chimp Makes Her Debut at OKC Zoo

For the first time, visitors to the Oklahoma City Zoo have the opportunity to meet baby Zoe, a female chimp born all the way back in October, 2008. Sadly, Zoe's biological mother died shortly after her baby's birth. Lucky for Zoe, OKC Zoo staff provided round-the-clock surrogate parent care, even wearing a hairy vest to simulate a mother chimp, until a nurturing and protective surrogate chimp mother could be found. 

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More to the story below the fold.

Born all the way back in October of 2008,

September 10, 2009


        It’s a Girl! Visitors to the Oklahoma City Zoo have the opportunity to meet and see for the first time “Zoe,” a chimpanzee infant! Born on October 14, 2008 to mom “Chloe” and dad “Mwami,” Zoe is making her official debut at Great EscApe, Thursday, September 10. This was the first offspring for both parents and the first chimpanzee birth at the Zoo since 1949.

      Named in honor of her mother, Zoe spent the first few months of her life being meticulously and lovingly hand-raised by a team of surrogate animal care specialists including the Zoo’s Great EscApe, veterinary, curatorial and various animal keeper staff. Chloe, who was near-term in her pregnancy, began showing signs of pregnancy complications on the morning of October 14, 2008. The Zoo team led by Zoo Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Michelle Davis and a group of physicians from OU Medical Center (specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, and infant critical care) performed an ultrasound on Chloe and were unable to detect any abnormalities. The decision was made to allow Chloe to proceed with her pregnancy based upon the information obtained from the physical examination. Unfortunately, Chloe experienced difficulty coming out of anesthesia and was unable to be revived after CPR was administered. Dr. Davis delivered Zoe by C-section. A necropsy (animal autopsy) indicated that Chloe’s death was due to complications from pregnancy with a combination of factors including: a tear in her placenta, tiny blood clots in her brain and increased anesthesia risk due to pregnancy. “Our primary concerns were for the health and well-being of both infant and mother and had an attempt not been made to discover what the situation was with Chloe, we could have lost both animals,” said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, Zoo Director of Veterinary Services. “We are grateful to the OU Medical Center physicians who donated their time and expertise to help us during this challenging situation.”

      A healthy 3.5 pounds, Zoe was cared for round-the-clock for the first 6.5 months of her life.   Finding a surrogate chimp mom and integrating Zoe into the chimp family as a physically and socially healthy chimp was the ultimate goal. “Our team needed to mirror the behavior of a chimp mom as closely as possible,” said Jennifer Davis, Great EscApe Supervisor. “Our primary focus was consistently promoting natural behaviors including our vocalizations and facial expressions.” To help Zoe learn clinging skills a special black, furry vest was designed for keepers to wear during play and feeding sessions. From the beginning, the chimpanzee family could see, hear and smell Zoe from their protected-contact enclosure next door. In April, Zoe was integrated into her “chimp” family. As chimps have complex social structures and hierarchies, this was a challenging time. Chimp families can be aggressive, and members of the family were trying to reestablish their hierarchies after Chloe’s death. Careful strategies by the Zoo team involved selecting the female with the most maternal instincts with Abby eventually assuming the role. Abby’s half-sister Kito is playing an integral function as “aunt.” Zoe is continuing to meet and get to know other members of her extended family.  “Our team has worked admirably and tirelessly to ensure that Zoe is a well-integrated and socialized chimpanzee,” said Zoo Executive Director/CEO Dwight Scott.  “I appreciate their dedication, and as professionals in the zoo industry, it is rewarding for all of us to see Zoe thriving.”

      This significant birth is due in part to the breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, or SSP. Together with the AZA, the Chimpanzee SSP serves to guide the management of the chimpanzee population at 35 accredited zoos across the country representing 270 chimps. Chimpanzees are classified as endangered. The commercial trade in bushmeat is by far the greatest immediate threat to chimpanzees. Other challenges include: commercial logging, conversion of habitat to agriculture, mineral prospecting and mining, and forest fires. The live animal trade, including capture of infants for the pet trade and entertainment industry, and the international biomedical trade, are additional pressures.              
Come see the newest arrival at the Zoo: baby chimp Zoe, at Great EscApe! Zoe is still getting to know her new habitat, so might not always be visible to guests. Also visit her fellow Zoo infants, an okapi calf born August 15 and a Grevy’s Zebra foal born July 13, both on Wild

Dog Row. The wild is calling you to the Oklahoma City Zoo! Located in Oklahoma City’s

Adventure District at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,

with exhibit buildings closing at 4:45 p.m.  Through September, the Zoo will remain open until 8

p.m. on Saturdays only.  Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children three to 11 and seniors 65 and older. Children two and under are free. For more information, please call (405) 424-3344 or visit www.okczoo.com.

Chimp Fast Facts

    * Like human babies, infant chimpanzees rely on affectionate physical contact for healthy development.

    * Chimpanzee young are dependent on their mothers until age 7.

    * Grooming is one of the most important social behaviors in chimpanzee communities. It helps them maintain – or even improve – friendships.

    * Chimpanzees are found in 21 African countries.

    * Chimpanzees can live up to 50 years in the wild. Average life spans of chimpanzees in zoo environments are slightly longer.

    * Chimpanzees are omnivores. They like to eat fruits, buds, seeds, blossoms, insects, and even small mammals.

    * Biologically, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas. We share close to 99% of the same DNA.

    * Chimpanzees have opposable thumbs and opposable big toes to help them grip.