When we think of animals giving birth, we do not often consider that the animal might not be fit to be a mother. But that is what happened when first-time chimpanzee mother Carole gave birth to Keeva at the Maryland Zoo. The chimp, who weighed only 2.6 pounds, was not thriving under her mother’s care. It was up to the zoo staff to recognize that Carole was simply not adapting well a life of motherhood, and remove the infant chimp in search of a more loving, suitable surrogate mother.
Maryland Zoo staff gave Keeva the care she needed while working with the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP) to single out available chimpanzees who would be fit to raise the baby chimp. Luckily, they found Abby, a proven surrogate, at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.
It was crucial that, as an impressionable infant, Keeva quickly join a community of chimpanzees. Dr. Steven Ross, chair of the SSP, said in a press release that this would “give her the best chance for a healthy development.”
Thanks to the teamwork between the zoo staffs and the SSP, Keeva is now at a healthy weight of five pounds and growing. She is teething and learning to move and communicate from the others in her family. Since infant chimps are dependent upon their mothers for at least five years, it is good news that Keeva and Abby are a good fit for one another. It looks like Keeva will live to lead a long, healthy life.