If you walk by the chimpanzee habitat in Primate World, you’ll see something quitespecial. One-year-old baby chimp “Keeva” holding on to mom, “Abby,” playing with “Twiggy” and “Jamie,” or chasing the ducks that share the same space. Watching her today, you would never know the challenging start she experienced.
On March 12, Keeva was born at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore to mother, “Carole.” After the animal care team observed that Carole was not adapting to motherhood appropriately, the difficult decision was made to removeand hand-rear Keeva. Knowing they needed to move as quickly as possible to find Keeva a chimp mom, it was decided that she would be moved to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo where she was matched with proven surrogate mom, Abby.
Keeva and members of animal care team from Maryland Zoo flew down to Florida where she was introduced to the animal care team here at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The Zoo’s primate team along with the general curator immediately showed baby Keeva to the chimp troop so they could start becoming familiar with each other’s scent through protective mesh. For the next 6 months,baby Keeva received round-the-clock care from her caregivers, including feedings every 2 hours, helping her gain strength and mobility. We watched her gain confidence in her skills, become curious of her surroundings, and get stronger. At about six months, it was time for the next step – a full introduction.
We all waited on pins and needles -- ultimately wanting the best for Keeva. After days of monitored interactions, and some patience on Abby’s end, Keeva began holding on to Abby’s back, as a baby chimp should do. While we celebrated the successful moment, integrating a baby chimp into a social group is not easy nor quick. The next steps were to introduce her to the other female chimps, Jamie and Twiggy, and eventually male, Bahati. One by one, the chimp troop fell for Keeva’s undeniable charm, and one by one, each member of the group completed the circle of Keeva’s family.
At just over a year old, Keeva has captured the hearts of her chimp troop, the animal care team and all the guests who come to see her. We are proud of the efforts made by our animal care team to little Keeva in order to provide a healthy and promising life. We are thrilled she was able to find a home, and a happy ending, here with us at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.