ST. LOUIS – The Saint Louis Zoo is celebrating the birth of a baby chimpanzee.
The baby chimpanzee, a female, doesn’t have a name yet. Her mother, 18-year-old Utamu, gave birth Wednesday, October 28 around 3:30 a.m.
The zoo’s primate care team says the baby appears to be healthy and is clinging to mom well.
“She and the baby right now are bonding. The baby is clinging well. They’re both healthy but right now we’re giving them a chance as a new mom to bond with her baby and not have a lot of distractions. We’re monitoring them both closely. She is taking good care of that baby,” said Helen Boostrom, Zoological Manager of Primates at the Saint Louis Zoo.
The team will watch them closely during the coming weeks and observe their behavior.
Primate keepers trained Utamu so that they would be able to monitor the health of the baby during the 8 to 8.5-month pregnancy. But ultimately, Utamu’s close relationship to her own mother, Rosebud, prepared her for motherhood.
“Chimpanzees, the mother—well, the grandmother at this point—have a lot of influence on how good a mom they’ll be because they learn all they need to from their mom, so Rosebud is right there by her side,” Boostrom said. “She was actually sitting right next to her during labor keeping a close eye on her.”
Utamu’s care staff is working hard to build trust with the protective mother so that she will let them see the baby.
The presumed father, Kijana, joined the troop in 2018 from the Little Rock Zoo as a breeding recommendation for Utamu.
“So, kind of having another generation, a lot of people watching a mother interact with her infant, really connect with that and can kind of build that knowledge and care for chimpanzees so they are interested in helping them out in the wild,” Boostrom said.
This baby is good for the chimpanzee troop of eight as well, beginning a new generation.
“It’ll also help out the entire chimp group. They’re all getting that experience of being able to interact with an infant,” Boostrom said.
Chimpanzees are endangered due to threats they’re facing in the wild, like habitat loss. This birth will help raise awareness in the community.
The birth is a result of a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan. The program helps manage a genetically healthy chimpanzee population for the critically endangered species.
Utamu and her baby will stay in a private maternity area to allow them to continue to strengthen their bond. A public debut date has not been decided. Zoo guests may see other members of the chimpanzee troop in the outdoor Donn and Marilyn Lipton Fragile Forest habitats, weather permitting.