Staff at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo are deeply saddened by the death of a young female chimpanzee named Keeva.
TAMPA, Fla. (Sept 27, 2017) – Staff at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo are deeply saddened by the death of a young female chimpanzee named Keeva this morning. Animal Care staff found her dead from what appears to be an attack by another member or members of her troop.
“Our team is absolutely heartbroken,” said Dr. Larry Killmar Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Zoological Officer at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “Chimpanzees have an incredibly complex and dynamic social hierarchy. Keeva was spending the night with two adult chimpanzees, Twiggy and Nick, who have been showing normal interactions with her up to this point. We closely and carefully monitor their behavior, and it is perplexing that this happened.”
Keeva came to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo from another zoo as an orphan in 2015 after her mother rejected her at birth. Since that time, she integrated into the Zoo’s troop and was successfully fostered by an adult chimp named Abby, who has fostered other infants successfully. For the first five months of Keeva’s life, a team of primate animal care specialists provided round-the-clock care.
The Zoo’s commitment to chimpanzees began in 1965, making the Zoo experts in chimp care and surrogacy. On a global scale, the Zoo has worked on projects in African Sanctuaries in Uganda, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Gabon. All of these projects involved rescuing and rehabilitating primates that are endangered due to habitat loss, disease, political unrest and poaching for bushmeat and the pet trade. Working with these animals in Africa helps the Zoo further understand animal behavior.
“Keeva had a very amenable relationship with the two adults Twiggy and Nick who never showed any type of aggression towards her until today,” explained Killmar.
“Chimpanzees are a very volatile and physical species – engaging in conflict is a common part of chimp behavior. They occasionally fight and injure each other, sometimes resulting in the death of members of their own groups. Chimps are highly social and constantly negotiate their social standings, the hierarchy constantly changes,” explained Judy McAuliffe, Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan Program Leader.
This leaves the team at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo with a deep sense of loss and grief, and decisions to be made about how to manage the chimpanzee troop moving forward. The Zoo is offering grief support to team members working to cope with the loss.
“The sad reality is that violence and mortality is not uncommon for chimpanzees, but nonetheless we are absolutely devastated to lose Keeva,” said Killmar. “We are now carefully evaluating the chimpanzee troop social dynamics and will bring in an outside review team of primate experts to help assess the situation. It is important to have a cohesive group for their social and emotional wellbeing, and we may be looking at some changes to this troop following this incident.”