Extremely rare – and extremely adorable.
The Chester Zoo in Cheshire, England, has welcomed the birth of a Western chimpanzee, the most endangered subspecies of chimpanzees.
The zoo announced the baby boy’s birth in a Thursday news release. The little one, born to mother ZeeZee, will join a troop of 22 Western chimpanzees at the British zoo.
“We’re incredibly proud to see a precious new baby in the chimpanzee troop,” said Andrew Lenihan, team manager at the zoo’s primate section, in the release. “Mum ZeeZee and her new arrival instantly bonded and she’s been doing a great job of cradling him closely and caring for him.”
Lenihan said that the baby is already quickly becoming accepted by his extended family.
“A birth always creates a lot of excitement in the group and raising a youngster soon becomes a real extended family affair,” Lenihan went on. “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.”
Additionally, the tiny baby is an essential asset to the critically endangered population.
“He may not know it, but ZeeZee’s new baby is a small but vital boost to the global population of Western chimpanzees, at a time when it’s most needed for this critically endangered species,” Lenihan added.
Following a decades-old tradition, Chester Zoo’s newborn will be named after a famous rock star, according to the news release.
The Western chimpanzee is the only chimpanzee subspecies categorized as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which indicates they are facing “an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.” The species has gone extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo, but still lives in some parts of West Africa, with the largest population remaining in Guinea.
The subspecies has faced an 80% population decline over the last 25 years, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The ape’s numbers have plummeted due to habitat destruction, poaching, and disease.