Bunny, a first-time mother, had an “uncomplicated labor and delivery,” and she and her newborn have spent their first “ten days together bonding in a quiet off-exhibit area,” according to a statement from the zoo.
Erin Cantwell, a mammal collection and conservation manager, said Bunny is a “very attentive and protective” mother of her newborn and that she likes to “hold the baby up and watch her move and often nuzzles her face.”
Cantwell said the baby is nursing regularly and “getting stronger every day.”
Officials said chimpanzees are listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. They face threats in the wild from the loss of their African forest habitat, commercial logging, fires, poaching and disease, according to experts.
Bunny is mostly deaf and has only slight hearing in one ear, so zookeepers have watched the mother and daughter closely for any issues. Officials said keepers “believe she is able to hear and feel the baby when it cries loudly.”
The baby chimp joins 12 other chimpanzees at the Maryland Zoo. She has not yet been named, but officials said they will announce a naming contest for her in the coming weeks.
Typically, baby chimps weigh two to three pounds at birth, and females grow to up to 100 pounds. The care team is watching the new chimp for signs that are similar to those a doctor would look for in a human infant — holding her head up on her own, teething, using her fingers and toes to grasp items, and learning vocalizations and facial expressions.
“We want to be as hands-off as possible to allow mom and baby plenty of time to develop their relationship,” Cantwell said. “Just like with human moms, there is a steep learning curve for both the baby and the mother in the first few days as they both adjust to this new way of life.”