MEMPHIS, TENN. - The Memphis Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of a bonobo. This is the second successful bonobo birth at the Memphis Zoo.
The baby was born to parents "Kiri" and "Mofana" on Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12.
"We are excited about this birth," Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs, said. "This is a species that needs a lot of help, so every birth is significant."
The sex of the baby is not yet known. Zookeepers and veterinarian staff will determine the sex of the baby in the coming weeks. At this time, staff members are giving the group time and space to care for the young bonobo.
Bonobos are a member of the greater ape family and look similar to the chimpanzee. Bonobos are a matriarchal society, and as such, tend to have strong nurturing reactions towards babies. Any outside interference is not appreciated.
Bonobo babies are born basically helpless. All females in the group play a part in raising the babies. The mother, as well as aunts, will carry the baby for the first two years of their life.
"Bonobos are still very rare in the wild and in captivity," Thompson said. "They are a high conservation priority, and Mo and Kiri are a good genetic match."
Visitors can see the baby on exhibit. Updates will be provided regularly on the Memphis Zoo's webpage, as well as Facebook page.
About the Memphis Zoo's Bonobos
The Memphis Zoo is home to a group of five bonobos. All of the bonobos can be found at the bonobo exhibit across from the Hippo exhibit. The Memphis Zoo has kept bonobos in the collection since 2003.
Kiri, the female, was born at the San Diego Zoo. She arrived at the Memphis Zoo when the bonobo exhibit opened in 2003. Mo, the male, was born at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany. He arrived at the Memphis Zoo in 2003 as well.
In the wild, bonobos only live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, south of the Congo River. Bonobos were once thought to be a sub-species of chimpanzees, often called "pygmy chimpanzees" or "dwarf chimpanzees." This, however, is incorrect, as they are a separate species, and were classified as such in 1929.
Not much is known about wild bonobos. They were the last of the great apes to be studied in the wild. Research began in 1973, but ended when civil war and unrest rocked the area. Scientists returned in 2002.
Bonobos are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are rare in the wild and captivity. There are estimates that place the wild population between 20,000-50,000, although this number is highly disputed. According to the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, as of July 2009, there were only 84 bonobos living in 10 zoological institutions in the United States and Mexico. According to the European Endangered Species Program, there are 90 bonobos living in 10 zoological facilities across Europe.