Taronga Zoo primate keepers watched early one morning last week as the newest member of the Zoo’s renowned Chimpanzee group was born to mother, Kuma.
Keepers had just arrived at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary to start their daily routine and observations when Kuma delivered what keepers believe is a healthy young male. The experienced mother cradled the infant while other chimpanzees including her son, Furahi, 10, looked on with interest.
Taronga primate keeper, Katie Hooker, said: "At 7.30 am, we were continuing to monitor Kuma ‘s pregnancy in the exhibit where she was sitting on one of the climbing structures, about eight metres off the ground. Suddenly, she gave birth, easily reaching down to bring her new baby up onto her chest. It took about four minutes."
"We've just been keeping everything normal and low key to support Kuma and let her settle the newcomer into the group. She’s been doing all the right things, grooming and feeding the baby."
Chimpanzees have highly structured family groups and mothering is a learned experience. As the granddaughter of the former matriarch, Fifi, Kuma is well-placed in the hierarchy of the group.
Zoo visitors may be able to catch glimpses of the baby straight away as Kuma has been the Sanctuary’s exhibit since the birth.
Taronga Director, Cameron Kerr, said: "This is great news for our chimpanzee group, and adds to our conservation efforts that increasingly operate here at the zoo and in the wild."
"Only yesterday a Taronga vet arrived at the Jane Goodall Foundation’s Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Centre in the Congo to treat chimpanzees for the latest release into the sanctuary. Our Construction Manager will arrive next month to help manage the building of the next part of the sanctuary.”
Taronga Foundation is also is providing financial support for Tchimpounga with $150,000 in funding over five years from 2011 as well as sending veterinarians, zoo keepers, construction specialists, electricians and volunteers to work at the sanctuary."
Chimpanzees are humans’ nearest relatives sharing over 98.5 % of the same DNA. Sadly they are increasingly endangered in the wild from habitat loss, the bushmeat trade and the illegal pet trade, which often sees young chimps abandoned or seized in poor physical and mental health.
Dr Goodall sent a message to Taronga on the opening of its refurbished Chimpanzee Sanctuary in September 2011 saying: “Taronga Zoo's chimpanzee community is well respected around the world. This new exhibit is very exciting and is filled with potential for the chimpanzees. I have come to know these chimpanzees well and I wish I was there today to see how they first react to their new home”.