For the first time, the Kansas City Zoo’s baby chimpanzee has enjoyed being on public display with her twelve companion chimps. Baby Ruw was born at the zoo in April last year but rejected by her mother.
The 10-month-old spent Sunday morning touring her open habitat, clinging to the backs of older chimps. The zoo's senior director of zoological operations, Sean Putney, says Ruw’s reintroduction is going well.
“This is a real feel good ending,” says Putney. “Chimp society can be rather brutal. They put each other in their place, and sometimes it’s not very kind. But they’ve all done really well with her.”
Eleven-year-old Greyson Imm was there with his 8-year-old sister Leah to observe the new baby. “I really liked him,” he said.
Until now, zoo staff have hand-raised the chimp. Erin Black is one of the zookeepers who spent days and nights for many months, caring for the baby.
“It’s just very stressful, making sure everything goes really well,” says Black. “It’s like being a stressed out mum,” she adds.
During that time Ruw’s main sustenance came from human baby formula. Now she shares the diet of the other chimps, which includes carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, bananas and tomatoes.
As she watched the baby from the public viewing area, Black was pleased with Ruw’s progress.
“It’s going really well so far. She’s having a lot of fun exploring. Everybody’s having fun taking turns and moving around the exhibit with her.”
Ruw’s Sunday debut follows months of introducing each older chimp to the new baby, one at a time.
Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.