Note: Keepers have confirmed Taronga’s new chimpanzee baby is a male and are now working on a naming process. Further details will be announced in due course.
The past few weeks have seen Kuma’s newborn infant become steadily more familiar with life within the chimpanzee community here at Taronga Zoo.
The first lesson that needs to be learnt by the baby chimp is how to hang on tight! Kuma still needs to be mobile around the Chimp Sanctuary and has been observed scaling the highest of heights, clambering around on the enclosure’s many ropes and climbing structures.
At this early stage, the baby is riding ventrally, which means he is clinging to his mother’s belly hair. He will continue to be carried around like this for approximately 6 months.
When the time is right, Kuma will persuade her young one to ride dorsally, which simply means on her back, and from up there he will have a much better view of the goings on within the group. But for now, the baby chimp is being held very close to mum, is suckling well, and is gaining in size and strength each day.
There have been times when Keepers have heard the infant vocalise loud and clear in the chimps’ night area and, from the sound of things, he’s going to have quite a set of lungs as he gets older!
Keepers continue to closely monitor the progress of the young one. These first few months will be fascinating, as we see how he grows, learns from his mum and other chimps in the group, and slowly becomes fully integrated into the community.
Kamili, who has seemingly had her maternal instincts awoken with the arrival of Kuma’s baby, has been sporting a significant swelling for most of the past week and a half, which in turn has attracted a lot of interest from the mature males such as Samaki and his older brother, Shabani.
The coming into oestrus of any of our females creates high levels of excitement amongst all the males, and is represented by the swelling and pinkness of the female’s genital area.
This swelling is the first sign of womanhood in a female chimpanzee, and begins at around 10 years of age, after which menarche occurs, which is the first ovulatory cycle.
At 12 and 19 years of age, Shabani and Samaki are referred to as ‘The S Brothers’, and they have an enormous influence within our chimpanzee group.
They are big, strong chimps who are both socially and sexually mature, and a female in oestrus is of great interest to them. Kamili has been flirting a bit with all of the males in an attempt to elevate her own position within the community.
In fact she and Shabani have often been inseparable, looking very much like the happy couple, following each other around and resting together away from the main group.
It is a fantastic time for the Primate team at Taronga Zoo, with Kuma’s baby continuing to ‘cute things up’ as the rest of the chimpanzee group go on with their daily lives.
These next few months will be very interesting for Keepers, chimps, and all the visitors to the zoo.
CHIMP FACT #2
Apart from humans, chimpanzees are the most widespread of all the primates, currently inhabiting more than 20 countries across Western Africa and the humid equatorial jungles of Central Africa.
There are four recognised sub-species of chimpanzee: the western chimpanzee, the Nigerian chimpanzee, the central African chimpanzee, and the eastern chimpanzee. As well as these sub-species, there also exists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the pygmy chimpanzee, also known as the bonobo.
It is thought there are between 100,000 and 200,000 chimpanzees in the wild, and they are listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as being endangered. In all of these countries these great apes are under increasing threat from human intervention and habitat loss.
You can help to protect the chimpanzee! Next time you’re at the zoo ask one of our staff how.
Simon, Primate Keeper