The North Carolina Zoo welcomed a new baby chimp on Monday, and while it’s not clear yet whether it’s a boy or a girl, the baby and its mother are doing well.
In a news release issued Tuesday, the zoo said the baby born to mother Gerre is only the third successful chimp birth in two years at any zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The baby began nursing quickly, the release said.
While successful chimp births are relatively rare in captivity, the N.C. Zoo has seen the birth of four infants — two females, a male and the new baby — since 2010, making it one of the most successful breeding programs of any AZA-accredited facility. The last chimp birth at the N.C. Zoo, Gus, was in 2014.
Gerre (pronounced Zha’-ree, according to the announcement) is about 20 years old. She also is the mother of Genie, who was born August 2011 at the Dallas Zoo and came with her mom to the facility outside Asheboro in November 2012.
The zoo says chimpanzees have an average life span of 35 to 40 years in captivity. They are an endangered species, largely because of the destruction of their African forest habitat. They continue to be poached in the wild. Chimps, clever and social, are one of the five types of great apes along with gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and humans. Conservationists estimate the wild chimp population to be between 172,000 and 299,000 animals.
The N.C. Zoo has worked for more than 15 years to help protect chimpanzees in Kibale National Park in Uganda through school environmental programs and helping local residents find ways to preserve park resources.
Geere’s pregnancy was recommended by the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, managed by the AZA. North Carolina’s chimpanzee troop, with 15 — now 16 — members, is one of the larger troops among those at U.S. zoos, the park said.
Jennifer Ireland, the zoo’s curator of mammals, said in the release that the troop is very curious about the young baby. The adult males in the troop are known for being gentle and playful with chimp youngsters, the park said.
“Every birth is special to us,” Zoo Director Pat Simmons said in the release. “We are thrilled to have this new addition. We hope our guests see the baby as a symbol of how important it is to save chimpanzees in the wild.”
The baby’s birth is especially happy news coming after the zoo lost Ruthie, one of its oldest chimps, in December. Ruthie was thought to be 47 years old and had lived at the N.C. Zoo for nearly 4 decades. She suffered from heart disease for several years before taking a turn last year.