06 14/06/2018

Critically endangered chimpanzee born to mum ZeeZee

A critically endangered chimpanzee has been born at Chester Zoo.

  • Western chimpanzee ZeeZee gives birth – the FIRST at Chester Zoo for almost a decade
  • Beautiful photos of mum cuddling baby girl released by zoo
  • Moment mum ZeeZee first bonds with baby caught on camera
  • Zoo conservationists say birth is ‘hugely significant’
  • Arrival follows genetic study which has identified Chester Zoo’s chimps as a vitally important conservation breeding group
  • Western chimpanzees are the first ever chimpanzee subspecies to join the list of critically endangered apes
  • Conservation experts from the zoo actively involved in efforts to protect some of the world’s rarest chimps in the wild  

 The female newcomer – a Western chimpanzee – is the first of its kind to be born at the zoo for nearly a decade. It is estimated that there could be as few 18,000 remaining in the wild.

Primate experts say the baby is in good health and inseparable from mum, ZeeZee (24).

The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee.

The birth follows a scientific project, spanning several years, which has carefully assessed the genetics of all chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study has confirmed that the chimps at Chester are the highly threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing the group as a critically important breeding population.


Mike Jordan, Collections Director, said:

“The new arrival is particularly important as it contributes to better genetic diversity in the European Western chimpanzee population. It comes after a five-year-long scientific study of chimpanzees in zoos across Europe confirmed that the group of chimps at Chester is one of the rarest in the world – making it even more important to conservation breeding than was ever thought.

“In the wild, the Western chimpanzee is under huge threat from bush-meat hunting as well as extensive and increasing habitat loss and fragmentation from human activity, so much so that it is the first ever chimpanzee subspecies to join the list of critically endangered great apes. It makes the group at Chester an important conservation insurance population and the new baby is hugely significant.” 

The Western chimpanzee is found in West Africa where it is patchily distributed from Senegal to Ghana and is already thought to be extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo. 

In Chester, the new arrival has increased the number in the group to 20 and zoo primate experts say the baby has excited other chimps in the family.


Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, added:

“Mum and baby have bonded positively and ZeeZee is naturally being incredibly protective of her newborn. She’s a wonderful, experienced mother and has learnt much of her parenting skills from her own mum Mandy, who is also part of the group and always on hand to lend her support.

“The interactions between the group are incredibly fascinating to watch. A new baby brings a new dynamic and the group is in a real state of excitement – particularly given that they haven’t seen a baby in their group for the best part of a decade.”

Chester Zoo is also actively involved in the conservation of some of the world’s rarest chimpanzee subspecies in the wild and, for more than 20 years, has supported the last stronghold of another of the rarest chimpanzee subspecies, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, in Gashaka Gumti National park in Nigeria.


Chimp facts:

  • Scientific name: Pan troglodytes verus
  • The Western chimpanzee is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • The new baby at Chester Zoo was born on 04/06/18
  • Mum ZeeZee was herself born at Chester Zoo on 15/02/94  
  • ZeeZee has previously had two babies
  • The arrival marks the first time in almost 10 years that the zoo has welcomed a baby chimpanzee. The last, Tina, was also born to mum ZeeZee in February 2009.

Notes to editors

  • Chester Zoo (www.chesterzoo.org) is a registered conservation and education charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire. Welcoming 1.9 million visitors a year, it is the most visited zoo in the UK; home to over 21,000 animals and more than 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild

  • Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction. Find out more at www.actforwildlife.org.uk