OKC Zoo’s endangered chimpanzee is pregnant

The endangered chimpanzee at OKC Zoo is pregnant


The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is proud to announce that its female chimpanzee, Nia, will become a mother.

Nia, 14, one of OKC Zoo’s adult female chimpanzees, is expecting a baby later this fall. For Nia it will be the second offspring.

“Every birth at the zoo is exciting, but one for an endangered species is meaningful and exciting for us,” said Pace Frank, associate curator of primates at OKC Zoo. “The zoo is committed to protecting chimpanzees. In partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and their Species Survival Plan for Chimpanzees, we continue to have a positive impact on their population while raising awareness to protect their habitat.”

Nia came to OKC Zoo in 2020 on the recommendation of AZA’s Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for chimpanzees from Sunset Zoo, Manhattan, Kansas. When she arrived, Nia was eight months pregnant with her first child. However, after the birth, Nia did not show the appropriate maternal behavior towards the child. The zoo’s primate care team, after consulting with the veterinary team, made the decision to remove the infant and hand raise it. Under the guidance of AZA’s Chimpanzee SSP, a recommendation was made that the child be transferred to the Maryland Zoo, Baltimore, Maryland, an AZA member zoo that has a successful history of introducing chimpanzee babies to foster mothers. The baby was named Maisie by a public vote hosted by the Maryland Zoo, and she continues to grow and thrive in her squad.

In preparation for this upcoming birth, primate caregivers train Nia to voluntarily participate in ultrasound scans to monitor the baby’s health. Although the zoo’s primate care team hopes Nia will exhibit appropriate maternal behavior, keepers are also training with Kito, an adult female chimpanzee in the troupe, to prepare her for the role of surrogate should intervention be necessary. Kito is a proven replacement and most recently served as a first for the squad’s younger male, Rueben.

The zoo’s veterinary team confirmed Nia’s pregnancy through a pregnancy test. She is expected to give birth in the fall after a gestation period of around 8 months. Following a breeding recommendation from AZA’s Chimpanzee SSP, Nia was mated and successfully conceived with the zoo’s two male chimpanzees, Mwami, 34, and Ruben, 10. The infant’s father is currently unknown and will be determined through a blood test. Nia is healthy and her pregnancy is progressing well. She continues to receive excellent care and attention from her caretakers, who work closely with the zoo’s veterinary team to monitor her through ongoing physicals and wellness checks.

Native to Central and West Africa, the chimpanzee is currently listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). With declining populations, chimpanzees are at risk from deforestation, hunting, and illegal pet trade. OKC Zoo helps strengthen chimpanzee populations by participating in AZA’s Chimpanzee SSP. OKC Zoo guests can help protect endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and wild places through Rounding Up for Conservation. Each time someone purchases an admission ticket, food, or souvenir at OKC Zoo, they can ask to “round up” their total to the nearest dollar to directly and positively impact wildlife and wild places.

The OKC Zoo is home to six chimpanzees, including females Cindy, 54; Kito, 35; Kirsty, 21 and Nia as well as the males Mwami and Ruben. Stay tuned to the zoo’s social media platforms for updates on Nia’s pregnancy.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with last entry at 4 p.m. Advance tickets are required for all guests and ZOOfriends members, which can be purchased at http://www.okczoo.org/tickets.

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