Utamu (pronounced oo-TAH-moo), an 18-year-old chimpanzee at the Saint Louis Zoo, gave birth to a yet-to-be-named female baby around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, at Jungle of the Apes.
“We are all very happy to have a new baby in the troop and it is so great to see Utamu become a mother,” said Heidi Hellmuth, Curator of Primates, Saint Louis Zoo.
The baby appears to be healthy and is clinging to mom well, according to the Zoo’s primate care team and veterinarians. The team will watch the mother and infant closely during the coming days and weeks, monitoring for nursing and observing the behavior of Utamu and the baby.
“We are hopeful that everything will continue to go well for both mom and baby. The next couple of months are critical,” said Helen Boostrom, Zoological Manager of Primates, Saint Louis Zoo. “Our highly skilled, experienced primate care team has built strong, trusting relationships with the chimpanzees, which are integral to providing the high level of care and training involved in preparing Utamu for birth and rearing her infant.”
Utamu and her baby will stay in a private maternity area for some time to allow them to continue to strengthen their bond. A public debut date is not known at this time. Zoo guests may see other members of the chimpanzee troop in the outdoor Donn and Marilyn Lipton Fragile Forest habitats, weather permitting.
The birth was the result of a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, a scientific program to manage a genetically healthy chimpanzee population for this critically endangered species.
Background on Utamu’s Path to Motherhood
Utamu and her mother, Rosebud, came to the Saint Louis Zoo from Zoo Miami in 2007. Chimpanzee females learn maternal care from their mothers, and the close bond between the two should be beneficial in helping Utamu raise her own baby, according to the Zoo’s primate care team.
This is Utamu’s second offspring. In September 2019, Utamu gave birth to her first baby, which, unfortunately, was stillborn or died shortly after birth.
Kijana (pronounced kih-JAH-nah), a 28-year-old male, is the presumed father; however, because there are other males in the troop, a blood test will be done when the baby is older to officially determine paternity. Kijana moved to St. Louis from the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas in 2018 to join the troop of eight chimpanzees (two other males and six females). Kijana is the father of Jumoke, a male born in 2015 at Little Rock Zoo.
The gestation for chimpanzees is between 8 and 8.5 months. In preparation for the birth, the primate keepers trained Utamu to allow voluntary ultrasound examinations; these examinations helped the team to proactively monitor the health and development of the baby during gestation.
About Chimpanzees and Conservation
Chimpanzees are critically endangered in their native Africa. Populations are perilously low due to several factors, including deforestation, disease and the bushmeat crisis (illegally sold meat from wild animals). The Zoo is dedicated to caring for chimpanzees both at the Zoo and through the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for the Conservation of Congo Apes, which works with partners to help conserve chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas in their natural environments.
About the Saint Louis Zoo
Home to over 13,000 animals representing 555 species, the Saint Louis Zoo is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo attracts approximately 3 million visitors annually and is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences. The Saint Louis Zoo and the other AZA-accredited institutions collectively dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation and education programs. For more information, visit stlzoo.org.