Critically endangered chimpanzee born at Chester Zoo offers new species hope
The rare Western chimpanzee will be named after a rock or pop star, the zoo says.
A critically endangered Western chimpanzee has been born at Chester Zoo.
The male chimp is in good health and is spending the first few weeks of its life bonding with its mother, ZeeZee, and the other members of the zoo's 22-strong troop.
He will be named after a rock or pop star like three other baby chimpanzees previously born at the zoo - Dylan (Bob), Alice (Cooper) and Annie (Lennox).
“We’re incredibly proud to see a precious new baby in the chimpanzee troop. Mum ZeeZee and her new arrival instantly bonded and she’s been doing a great job of cradling him closely and caring for him,” said Andrew Lenihan, team manager of the primates section at Chester Zoo.
“A birth always creates a lot of excitement in the group and raising a youngster soon becomes a real extended family affair.
“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.”
Western chimpanzees are a medium-sized subspecies of the common chimpanzee. They grow up to around a metre in length from head to rump and weigh up to 45kg. They can live for upwards of 40 years and are notable for their unusual behaviours. These include their use of spears to hunt and catch prey, and a strange habit of throwing large rocks against trees or into hollow tree stumps.
They are the first subspecies of chimpanzee to be declared Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that there are just 18,000 individuals found ranging from Senegal to Ghana in West Africa, with previous populations in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo now extinct due to habitat loss.
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“In the last 25 years alone the world has lost 80 per cent 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 and plant director at Chester Zoo.
“We’re in the midst of a global extinction crisis. The UN estimates that one million species could be wiped out in our lifetime. But, as a world-leading conservation zoo, we’re doing everything we possibly can to halt and reverse this.
“Our teams have worked on the ground in Uganda, Nigeria and Gabon to help protect wild chimpanzee populations and their forest homes. 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.”
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Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.
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