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A pair of baby chimpanzees recently born at the Los Angeles Zoo are being raised alongside three other young chimps.
With the births of Oliver in August and Johari in September, the zoo now has five endangered baby chimps under 3 years old. Female chimps named Zuri, Uki and Kima were born in 2012 and 2013.
This many baby chimps at once in one troop is “pretty rare,” said Jennie Becker, the zoo’s mammals curator. Limited space at zoos often makes it difficult for chimpanzee troops in captivity to accommodate that many babies, she said.
Becker said mothers raise their babies during their first five years, and because all of the zoo’s reproducing females have now given birth, “this may be the last group of babies we have here at the zoo for the foreseeable future.”
There are four generations of chimpanzees at the zoo, according to Becker.
Johari, whose name means Jewel, is being raised by first-time mother Zoe, but Oliver is being reared by animal care staff because he is unable to nurse from his mother Julie.
Baby chimps must be able to cling and nurse from their mothers in order to be raised by their parent, Senior Animal Keeper Candace Sclimenti said. Because Oliver can do neither, animal care staff have assumed the task of feeding him every three hours.
The hope is to reunite Oliver with his mother and the troop, and zookeepers are now training Julie to bring her baby to them so that he can be fed.
Julie was first trained to bring a stuffed animal to zoo staff, but she later took to bringing other baby chimps to be fed instead, indicating she understands the goal of the training, according to Sclimenti. Zoo staff also plan to teach Oliver to cling onto his mother.
Sclimenti noted that even though Oliver is under the care of zoo staff, he is not far from his troop, which he can access “through sight, smell and sound.”
“When they communicate with him through vocalizations, he vocalizes right back,” she said.
The baby chimpanzees, with the exception of Oliver, are part of an exhibit that can be viewed by zoo-goers.
— City News Service