(ANIMAL NEWS) LOS ANGELES — Visitors at the Los Angeles County Zoo witnessed a fatal attack on a baby chimp by an adult male chimp Tuesday. The 3-month-old chimp was the first to be born at the zoo in thirteen years. In the wild, alpha male chimps are known to kill infants for territorial reasons, especially if the baby is not his. However, in captivity extra precautions should be set in place to insure animal infant safety. The zoo staff is investigating the tragedy and is considering a new policy for introducing chimps in the future. Read on for more details. — Global Animal
MSNBC, Andrew Mach
An adult chimpanzee mauled a baby chimp to death Tuesday inside their exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo in front of a crowd of visitors, zoo officials said.
The 3-month-old chimp was the first to be born at the zoo habitat in 13 years, and she was gradually being introduced to the coed troop of 15 adults when an adult male chimpanzee fatally injured her in their habitat, zoo spokesperson Jason Jacobs said in a statement.
Gracie, a chimp at the Los Angeles Zoo, holds her baby. The unnamed infant was mauled to death by an adult male chimp Tuesday.
The unnamed infant was born in early March to a chimp at the zoo named Gracie, who “had proven to be a caring mother,” the zoo said. Gracie was allowed to keep the chimp overnight to grieve her loss.
Zoo staff didn’t witness the attack, but said it happened in front of a crowd of visitors.
“I did talk to a couple of visitors as I was coming up here, tried to help them process what they had seen,” Director John Lewis told NBCLosAngeles.com. “We also had some other visitors help us get a better understanding.”
Deputy Director Denis Verret said grief counseling was made available for visitors and staff.
Zoo officials said acts of aggression among the troop of chimps were not expected.
“Everything that we saw has been positive, all the chimps have been very interested, wanting to either be close to, or touch the baby,” Jennie Becker, the zoo’s curator of mammals, told KCAL-TV.
Male chimpanzees are well known for violence, including the killing of the young. Scientists speculate that clashes over stomping grounds might fuel these conflicts, and the human encroachment on chimpanzee territory, such as in zoo environments, may exacerbate them.
Studies and observations in recent years have also shown that male chimpanzees often attack the infants of rival chimps both in the wild and in captivity, especially if a desired female is involved, according to zoo officials.
“Chimpanzee behavior can sometimes be aggressive and violent and the zoo is sorry that visitors had to be exposed to this,” Jacobs said. “This is a heartbreaking and tragic loss for the zoo and especially for the Great Ape Team who have worked diligently to care for the infant and its mother since birth.”
Zoo officials were still investigating the circumstances behind the attack but said they may need to consider changing their approach to new arrivals.
“We’re going to have to consider, at what age maybe we introduce babies to the group,” Becker said. “I didn’t think that this was going to be a problem. These are all experienced, social chimps.”
The zoo in Griffith Park houses on of the nation’s largest troops of chimpanzee – 15 in all – in a North American zoo, officials said.
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