World's rarest chimpanzee born at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo/Cover Images

Primate conservationists are celebrating the birth of one of the world's rarest chimpanzees at Chester Zoo.

New mum ZeeZee - a critically endangered Western chimpanzee - safely delivered the tiny baby boy on 9 December 2022 following an eight-month pregnancy.

Great ape experts at the conservation zoo have revealed that the new male arrival is in good health and has spent the first few weeks of life bonding with mum and the rest of the 22-strong troop. In what is a longstanding tradition among conservationists, the youngster will be named after a rockstar or famous pop icon to help boost the profile of the highly threatened species.

As few as just 18,000 Western chimpanzees remain across Africa and it is the first subspecies to ever be declared critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Primatologists claim the birth gives further "hope" to efforts to ensure the long-term survival of the species.

Andrew Lenihan, team manager at Chester Zoo, said: "We're incredibly proud to see a precious new baby in the chimpanzee troop. Mum ZeeZee and her new arrival instantly bonded and she's doing a great job of cradling him closely and caring for him.

"A birth always creates a lot of excitement in the group and raising a youngster soon becomes a real extended family affair. You'll often see the new baby being passed between other females who want to lend a helping hand and give ZeeZee some well-deserved rest, and that's exactly what her daughter, Stevie, is doing with her new brother. It looks as though she's taken a real shine to him, which is great to see."

Speaking about the baby chimp's prospective new name, he added: "It's been a tradition of ours for decades now to name baby chimpanzees after famous rock and popstars in a bid to help raise some urgent attention for this charismatic species. We've previously welcomed Dylan (Bob), Alice (Cooper) and Annie (Lennox) - so watch this space!"