A critically endangered Western Chimpanzee has been born at Chester Zoo. Primate experts say the baby, born June 4, is in good health and inseparable from 24-year-old mum, ZeeZee.
ZeeZee was born at Chester Zoo on February 15, 1994. Her new infant marks the first time in almost ten years that the Zoo has welcomed a baby Chimpanzee. The last, Tina, was also born to mum ZeeZee in February 2009.
The birth follows a scientific project, spanning several years, which has carefully assessed the genetics of all Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study has confirmed that the chimps at Chester Zoo are the highly threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing the group as a critically important breeding population.
Mike Jordan, Collections Director, said, “The new arrival is particularly important as it contributes to better genetic diversity in the European Western Chimpanzee population. It comes after a five-year-long scientific study of Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe confirmed that the group of chimps at Chester is one of the rarest in the world – making it even more important to conservation breeding than was ever thought.”
“In the wild, the Western Chimpanzee is under huge threat from bush-meat hunting as well as extensive and increasing habitat loss and fragmentation from human activity, so much so that it is the first ever Chimpanzee subspecies to join the list of critically endangered great apes. It makes the group at Chester an important conservation insurance population and the new baby is hugely significant.”
The Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) is found in West Africa where it is patchily distributed from Senegal to Ghana and is already thought to be extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.
At Chester Zoo, the new arrival has increased the number of their group to twenty, and zoo primate experts say the baby has excited other chimps in the family.
Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, added, “Mum and baby have bonded positively, and ZeeZee is naturally being incredibly protective of her newborn. She’s a wonderful, experienced mother and has learnt much of her parenting skills from her own mum Mandy, who is also part of the group and always on hand to lend her support.”
“The interactions between the group are incredibly fascinating to watch. A new baby brings a new dynamic and the group is in a real state of excitement – particularly given that they haven’t seen a baby in their group for the best part of a decade.”
Chester Zoo is also actively involved in the conservation of some of the world’s rarest Chimpanzee subspecies in the wild and, for more than 20 years, has supported the last stronghold of another of the rarest Chimpanzee subspecies, the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, in Gashaka Gumti National park in Nigeria.
The Western Chimpanzee is classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that there could be as few 18,000 remaining in the wild.
More beautiful photos, below the fold!