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8th May 2008

Taronga's newest Chimpanzee mother, 'Sacha' today started Mother's Day celebrations early, by revealing her new baby boy which has been snuggling close to her belly since his arrival last month.  

The shy new male named 'Sule', meaning 'adventurous', was born on 4 April, in the Chimpanzee night house under the watchful eye of the world-renowned group, which now comprises of 20 individuals.

Senior Primate Keeper, Melissa Beaven, said: "Like all Chimpanzee births we allowed the group to manage it as they would in the wild and were delighted to discover little Sule curled up and cradled in his mother's arms when we arrived early in the morning."

Despite having arrived nearly one month ago, most Zoo visitors would have been unaware of the new arrival as Sacha, who at 28 years old has had numerous offspring, was being very protective and attentive,  cuddling Sule very close to her chest.

"Even for the keepers it was difficult for us to get a sneak peak at the baby. Through our continual monitoring we could tell it was suckling, strong and healthy but it took us nearly a week to determine that it was a boy," said Melissa.

It has been a particularly eventful year for Taronga's female Chimpanzees with Sule arriving just five weeks after the birth of a female infant 'Sembe' to experienced mother, 'Shiba'.  

As an early start to Mother's Day celebrations, Zoo staff treated the two primate mothers to their favourite breakfast muesli mix which includes a variety of sultanas, raisins, cherries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds whilst Sembe and Sule enjoyed the fresh morning air nestled in the comfort of their Mum's thick, warm hair.

The two little Chimpanzees are just a couple of the autumn off-spring at Taronga Zoo.  There's also two intriguing four month old Binturong babies, a little male, 'Baru', and female, 'Impi',  which are keeping their 17 year old mother 'Pepper' on her toes as they explore their tropical-themed home and learn to climb the large fig tree at the Zoo's Wild Asia exhibit. The animals which look like a bizarre mix between a bear, cat, possum and monkey live in trees and are noticeable for their strong odour which resembles musk or burnt popcorn.

Meanwhile 'Fuzu' the young male Gorilla born to 'Frala' in December is just starting to take his first tentative steps, but is never far away from the watchful gaze of his mum and bevy of aunties, many of whom are busy keeping an eye on the antics of their older children.

Taronga's young male Fennec Fox, Tizga, , 'Tizga', at five months is definitely wearing out his patient mum, 'Libiya', as he explores all the nooks and crannies of the desert themed home and can often be seen tearing around the exhibit at high speed as he burns off an abundance of energy. Tizga is named after a town in Morocco, one of the countries where these foxes, the smallest fox species, are found..

Additionally Zoo Keeper, Jane Vercoe, is currently playing surrogate mum to 'Tammy' a Red-necked Wallaby joey. Jane and all the Zookeepers who regularly act as surrogate parents thoroughly deserve their Mother's Day rewards as their Zoo babies require round the clock care and attention and many sleepless nights are spent warming bottles and hand-feeding.

For an unusual Mother's Day present you can add some animal siblings to the family by giving Mum a Zoo Parent membership. This includes an adoption certificate, information about the animals and regular updates. For more information phone the Zoo Parent hotline on 1300 369 116.

May is a big month for Taronga's Primate Keepers who as well as treating the animal mothers to Mother's Day are also hosting a special Orang-utan lecture presented by international expert Willie Smits. This event is supported by The Taronga Foundation which is assisting in raising funds for Great Ape recovery programs. For more information please visit 


Pan troglodytes

The chimpanzee is the closest living relative to humans. Both humans and chimps belong  in the classification group primates.

Chimpanzees are social animals that live in a group. The group size can vary from 5 to 40 chimps and is ruled by a dominant or "alpha" male.  Males range up to about 1.5 m in height and weigh from 40 - 60 kg while the females are slightly smaller.

Communication within the group is achieved through a series of different cries or vocalisations. These are very loud to allow communication to occur over a large distance. Chimpanzees also communicate through gestures, posture and facial expressions.

The typical life span of a chimp is about 40 - 45 years, though in captivity they have been known to live up to approx 60 years of age.

There is no breeding season for chimpanzees, like humans the female can breed at any time. Pregnancy lasts around 8 and a half months. Females normally produce a young every 4 - 5 years. Males are sexually active at 8 years of age while females are sexually active at 11 years.

Chimpanzees are only found in west and central Africa, from Senegal to Tanzania. They inhabit tropical forests, woodlands and savannah areas. Chimpanzees are both arboreal and terrestrial.

Chimpanzees are omnivorous. The main part of their diet is fruit but they also feed on leaves, seeds, pith, bark, insects, bird's eggs and meat.

Up until 30 years ago scientists distinguished man from apes believing that man was the only animal that could make and use tools. Now research has shown that chimps are known to be tool users in the wild. It is a common practice for them to use sticks or long grass to extract termites and ants from mounds.

Chimpanzees are considered endangered and if no action is taken they will become extinct. The numbers have declined due to habitat destruction and hunting. Chimpanzees also have a low reproductive rate which makes them highly vulnerable to habitat loss and slow to replace depleted numbers.

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