It is a birth no one will want to miss. For the first time ever, animal lovers around the world can witness a live chimpanzee baby birth thanks to an online birth cam set up by the Jane Goodall Institute at its Chimp Eden sanctuary in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
The institute’s nine year old chimp Nina is expecting her first child and to give world a glimpse of this special birth, the institute is providing a 24 hours live stream of Nina in her enclosure. It has been ensured though that the filming does not disturb the would-be mom in any way.
According to Nature Scientific journal, chimp mothers seek solitude when giving birth in their natural environment. It was also recently found that chimpanzee babies, like humans, are delivered facing backwards, something that was prior to 2011 thought to be a feature unique to humans.
Institute director David Devo Oosthuizen said that they are a bit worried about Nina as at nine years old she is about six year younger than an average chimp ready to become a first time mother. He added that the pregnancy was an accident when after the contraceptive implant she was fitted with failed.
“Chimp Eden is a rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary and as such has a very strict non-breeding policy,” explains Oosthuizen. “Nina herself had a contraceptive implant but it failed, which does occur in captive female chimps from time-to-time.
“Due to the precautions we take, we have never had a birth at Chimp Eden and Phillip Cronje, Sanctuary Chimpanzee Manager, is looking forward to the prospect of a new addition to the family here at the Chimp Eden. We are also excited to be working with Vox Telecom and WildEarth Media in order to bring this historic moment to the world,” he adds.
Chimp Eden was in news for all the wrong reasons last year when Global Post reported about a US graduate student who had been injured by two chimps. They had pulled the student under their fence. Although human error was blamed for the tragic accident and the chimps were not put down, the news hazed the image of a institute known for its superlative work in the field of ape conservation.
For Nina, the institute staff is also worried if she would know how to raise a child.
The chimp was rescued from bush meat hunters in 2007 who had snatched Nina as a baby from her mother. Authorities confiscated her from the hunters and sent her to a zoo in the town of Wau. From there she was taken to a Jane Goodall Institute safe house in Rumbek, Sudan. Nina and four other infant chimps Thomas, Charlie, Dinka and Zee were rescued at the same time and were quarantined together.
“Like the other chimps that are taken care of at Chimp Eden, Nina has also had a traumatic life,” observes Oosthuizen. “She was torn from her family by poachers and has very little experience of infants. We have no idea whether she will accept her baby or whether the primate staff at Chimp Eden will have to hand rear the little one. In the meantime we are monitoring her closely and are doing everything possible to ensure that all goes well.”
It is believed that Thomas is the father of the child.
He adds that they decided to live stream the birth of Nina’s baby to make the world focus on chimp conservation.
“We want to tell a story,” Oosthuizen told.
Compared to other endangered African species like the rhino, chimps are often overlooked he said though in another ten years if poaching and deforestation continued at the same pace, the apes may soon become history.
Chimps occur naturally in 22 African countries, from the west coast of the continent to as far east as Tanzania. They are an endangered species and are now found in numbers in only a few countries including Gabon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Northern Angola.