Chimpanzee born at Chester zoo offers ‘real hope’ for world’s rarest subspecies

Baby western chimpanzee, of which there are said to be only 18,000 left across Africa, will be named after rock or pop star

Conservationists are celebrating the birth of the “world’s rarest chimpanzee” at a UK zoo.

Chester zoo has welcomed the arrival of the male critically endangered western or west African chimpanzee, which was delivered after an eight-month pregnancy.

As few as 18,000 of the chimpanzees remain across Africa and the birth gives further hope to efforts to ensure the long-term survival of the species, primatologists say.

Great ape experts at the zoo said the infant was in good health and had spent the first few weeks of life bonding with his mother and the rest of the 22-strong troop.

He will be named after a rock or pop star, in the zoo’s tradition.

Andrew Lenihan, a team manager at Chester zoo, said: “We’ve previously welcomed Dylan [Bob], Alice [Cooper] and Annie [Lennox] – so watch this space.

Older sister Stevie [Nicks] gives ZeeZee a helping hand with the baby chimp.
Older sister Stevie [Nicks] gives ZeeZee a helping hand with the baby chimp. Photograph: 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.”

He said the apes were under huge threat in the wild because of deforestation in west Africa, hunting for the illegal bushmeat trade and diseases spread by humans.

Lenihan added: “He may not know it, but ZeeZee’s new baby is a small but vital boost to the global population of western chimpanzees, at a time when it’s most needed for this critically endangered species.”

Small populations of the western chimpanzee are still found ranging from Senegal to Ghana in west Africa but have become extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.

Mike Jordan, the animal and plant director at the conservation zoo, said: “In the last 25 years alone the world has lost 80% 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.

“We’re in the midst of a global extinction crisis. The UN estimates that 1 million species could be wiped out in our lifetime.”

He added that the conservation zoo was “doing everything we possibly can to halt and reverse this”.


Robyn Vinter

The GuardianTramp

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