Chester Zoo has celebrated a new arrival in the shape of a critically endangered baby chimpanzee.
The zoo has released photographs and video footage showing the baby Western chimpanzee being held in the arms of its 43-year-old mother, as the public was given the first glimpse of the primate.
Mandy, the chimpanzee’s mum, safely delivered her baby overnight on Friday, August 21, following an eight-and-a-half-month pregnancy.
Experts at Chester Zoo are yet to determine the sex of the new arrival but have hailed the birth as ‘hugely significant’ for the species.
Andy Lenihan, team manager of the primates section at Chester Zoo, said how Mandy, who already has one daughter and two granddaughters, has been “a wonderful mum” so far.
“She’s bonded instantly with her new baby and can be seen protectively cradling it in her left arm at all times,” he said.
“It’s a little too soon to tell if her new arrival is male or female as a newborn chimpanzee will remain in the arms of mum for several months until they develop the confidence to start exploring independently.
“Most importantly though, it’s bright eyed, alert and getting stronger by the day.”
A new chimpanzee birth can lead to a lot of excitement for the group of primates, according to the zoo’s researchers.
“It’s a real extended family affair as many of the females in the group often want to help to take care of the newcomer while, for some of the juveniles, seeing a mum with a new baby is a completely new experience,” Mr Lenihan added.
Young chimps have a white tuft of hair on their rear which they lose as they grow up, which is a signal to other chimps to be gentle with them.
Chimpanzees share 98 per cent of their genetic makeup with humans and are among the most intelligent animals on the planet.
Just 18,000 Western chimpanzees remain in the wild in Africa though, according to the latest figures.
The subspecies, whose technical name is Pan troglodytes verus, is the first group of chimpanzee to be added to the list of critically endangered apes.
The Western chimpanzee is found in West Africa – ranging from Senegal to Ghana – but is already believed to be extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.
Mike Jordan, animal and plant director at the zoo, said how everyone was “incredibly proud” that the group of primates was now home to a new baby.
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“It’s a hugely significant addition and a big boost for this species,” he said.
“The chimpanzees here at Chester are a key part of the international efforts working to ensure there’s a viable safety-net population of these critically endangered animals.
“In the wild, the Western chimpanzee is under huge threat from hunting, the illegal bush meat trade and extensive habitat loss – all a result of human activity.
“Western chimpanzee populations have declined extremely quickly and continue to do so – with little or no prospect of this decline halting. It makes the conservation populations in zoos extremely important for the future.”
The new arrival will be a crucial addition to the zoo’s project to conserve the Western chimpanzee species.
A scientific study recently confirmed that the genetic make-up of the group at Chester Zoo is vital to the future of the Western chimpanzee.
The zoo is part of the endangered species breeding programme, in which conservation teams are working alongside partners in Uganda, Nigeria and Gabon to help protect chimpanzees and their forest homes.