BALTIMORE, MD — The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is happy to announce that two of the female chimpanzees (Pan troglodyte) in our troop, Joice and Bunny, are pregnant. “We are cautiously optimistic about having two successful chimpanzee births this year,” stated Mike McClure, general curator at The Maryland Zoo. “Joice and Bunny have been under constant supervision and care, as are all the chimps, but with special attention being paid to their pregnancies. Both are healthy; however there is always the possibility that something could go wrong during the remainder of each pregnancy, and birth complications are not uncommon.”
Joice, 40, is the oldest chimp in the troop. She is also the matriarch of the troop, aunt to Carole and mother to both Renee, age 19, and Jambo, 6. Jambo was the last chimp to be born at the Zoo. “It is not uncommon for chimps to continue to have offspring well into their late 40’s,” continued McClure. “Joice came to the Zoo in 1995 when the Chimpanzee Forest opened, making her one of the original troop members along with Renee, Bunny and Carole. She is a proven mother and we are happy she is pregnant once again.”
Bunny is one of the least dominant females in the troop. At age 22, she is mostly deaf, with only slight hearing in one ear, but she has adapted well and is an important member of the chimps’ social structure. “We estimate that Bunny became pregnant in late summer 2011 based on changes in her body and behavior last fall,” continued McClure. “We expect that will deliver sometime between mid-March and May.”
Joice was recommended to breed by the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP), which designates which chimps in the U.S. should attempt to breed to ensure genetic diversity in the overall population. She was taken off birth control in October 2011. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when she became pregnant, based on estimated gestation time, she should have her baby sometime in mid-summer.
Chimpanzee gestation is about eight months. A female may be mated by all the males in a troop, regardless of their social standing, who show no sign of competition between themselves. Zoo staff does not know which of the three males has fathered either baby, but eventually DNA tests will be run to make that determination.
“This is an exciting development for the Zoo and our chimpanzee troop,” said Don Hutchinson, President/CEO of The Maryland Zoo. “If all goes according to plan, we hope to be sharing more good news in the near future.”
There are currently eleven chimpanzees in The Maryland Zoo’s troop. They can be seen daily in the Chimpanzee Forest.