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Baby chimp at Detroit Zoo bonds with new adoptive mother

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Posted at 8:21 AM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 09:04:28-04

(WXYZ) — The Detroit Zoological Society animal care staff hand-reared a male chimpanzee for five months before successfully transitioning his care to an adoptive chimpanzee mom.

“It’s a story of great dedication,” said Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society. “Nights, weekends and through a pandemic —Detroit Zoo primate staff cared for the baby chimpanzee around the clock. And now it’s a very heartwarming story of a baby who has found a devoted, adoptive chimp mom and family.”

Zane was born on January 7, 2020, to Chiana, 26. But DZS says that soon after Zane’s birth, Chiana became very ill and was unable to care for her newborn. Chiana was treated by veterinarians and recovered, but after she recovered, she showed no interest in caring for her little son.

The Detroit Zoo’s primate care staff gave Zane 24-hour care, which included carrying him constantly, as a mother chimp would, and teaching him to take milk from a bottle.

Over the five months, Zane lived in the Great Apes of Harambee building instead of a nursery so he could be around the other chimpanzees. During this time, the chimpanzees could see him up close through the mesh of their enclosure.

“Every day, the other chimpanzees could see us caring for him,” Carter said. “He was always near the other chimps even though they physically could not be together.”

To prepare Zane for life with the other chimpanzees, DZS planned a process that involved observing potential surrogate moms in the Detroit Zoo’s 11-member chimpanzee troop and their responses to Zane. Mother-daughter duo Trixi, 50, and Tanya, 29, both adult females in the troop, showed interest almost immediately.

“Trixi is a confident and high-ranking matriarch,” said Carter. “She was a wonderful mother to her daughter Tanya, and when we were considering who could be the best new mother for Zane, she stood out. She was very interested in being near him whenever she could and seemed quite taken with him.”

From their first physical interaction, it was clear that 5-month-old Zane had found his new adoptive family.

“Zane approached and hugged Trixi and Tanya the minute he had the chance,” said Carter. “Trixi is Zane’s primary caregiver, while Tanya, who has never had a baby of her own, loves playing with Zane, napping with him, and carrying him for short periods.”

Carter added, “We’re incredibly proud of our devoted primate staff for doing such an amazing job of caring for Zane and preparing him and his new adoptive family to thrive together.”

Baby Zane is now living with the troop at the Great Apes of Harambee at the Detroit Zoo.