Zoo celebrates birth of world's most critically endangered chimpanzee

Zoo celebrates birth of world’s most critically endangered chimpanzee

It’s always worth celebrating when an animal from an endangered species is born. Each new arrival is a step forward in protecting the species from extinction.

Now, one zoo is celebrating some incredible news: the birth of a baby Western chimpanzee, a critically endangered species and the rarest chimpanzee species on Earth.

Chester Zoo, a conservation and education charity in the UK, announced that on December 9, female chimpanzee ZeeZee gave birth to a male newborn following an eight month pregnancy.

Courtesy of Chester Zoo

According to a press release, great ape experts at the zoo said the new arrival is “in good health” and has been spending the first few weeks of life bonding with his mom.

“We’re incredibly proud to see a precious new baby in the chimpanzee troop, said Andrew Lenihan, Team Manager at Chester Zoo. “Mum ZeeZee and her new arrival instantly bonded and she’s doing a great job of cradling him closely and caring for him.”

Courtesy of Chester Zoo

In addition to ZeeZee, the newborn is also being looked after by the other members of the zoo’s 22-strong chimpanzee troop.

“A birth always creates a lot of excitement in the group and raising a youngster soon becomes a real extended family affair,” Lenihan said. “You’ll often see the new baby being passed between other females who want to lend a helping hand and give ZeeZee some well-deserved rest, and that’s exactly what her daughter, Stevie, is doing with her new brother. It looks as though she’s taken a real shine to him, which is great to see.”

Courtesy of Chester Zoo

The newborn has yet to be named, but the zoo says they will continue the tradition of naming their baby chimps after famous rock and pop stars. Previous chimps have been named Dylan (as in Bob Dylan), Alice (Cooper) and Annie (Lennox.)

Western chimpanzees are now the rarest chimpanzee species on the planet, and they are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the first subspecies of chimpanzee to be declared critically endangered.

They have been threatened by hunting as part of the illegal bush meat trade, and have suffered extensive habitat loss and forest destruction across West Africa. There is now just 18,000 Western chimpanzees in the wild: while small populations can still be found in places like Senegal and Ghana, they are now extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.

Courtesy of Chester Zoo

With so few Western chimpanzees left, every new birth is a major milestone, and ZeeZee’s new baby has given “real optimism” to primate conservationists.

“In the last 25 years alone the world has lost 80 percent of its Western chimpanzee population, so the arrival of a healthy baby here at Chester offers us real hope that we can help turn things around for this species,” said Mike Jordan, Animal & Plant Director at the Chester Zoo.

“This work, paired with the endangered species breeding programme in conservation zoos, will help play a key role in protecting this species from being lost forever.”

What incredible news for this critically endangered species. Congratulations on the birth of this beautiful newborn!

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