Orphaned baby chimp is adopted by another mother at zoo in incredible tale of compassion among our primate cousins

By Allan Hall

A baby chimpanzee has found a new mother in a zoo in Germany after she was rejected by her own.

Three-week-old female Nayla's adoption by another chimp at Osnabruek Zoo, north-west Germany, shows the high level of nurturing and maternal instincts of man's closest animal cousins.

More importantly, for a bewildered and lost little mite, it means that Nayla will not have to be raised by human hand but can live among her own.

Nurturing: Baby chimpanzee Nayla clings to her adoptive mother, Vanessa, at the zoo in Osnabrueck, Germany, yesterday

Nayla was born at Osnabrueck Zoo three weeks ago, but her mother, Vakanga, 17, rejected her at the weekend, casting her aside in her enclosure.

Normally this would have meant instant intervention on the part of zookeepers if he was to survive.

But, before they could step in, zoo staff witnessed something remarkable. A eight-year-old male called Kume stepped in as a surrogate father to the abandoned infant.

Keepers watched as he lovingly groomed the orphaned chimp and carried her around like females do.

Wolfgang Festl, in charge of the primates at the zoo, said: 'We saw at the weekend that she was on her own. And then just hours later she was being cared for by Kume.'

For an entire day the zoo staff watched what was taking place at the colony, where 10 chimps live together.

Mr Festl said: 'Throughout the day Kume was grooming the baby, walking around with him and even stuck his finger in his mouth to keep him quiet - like a dummy.'

Safe: Baby Nayla can now grow up among her own kind without intervention from zoo staff

Zoo inspector Hans-Jürgen Schröder and director Dr Susanne Klomburg hoped Vakanga would take Nayla back because, helpful though Kume was, he could not feed his new daughter.

Dr Klomburg said: 'If that failed, we hoped we could give a bottle to the baby if Kume sat near the bars.

'Chimps learn through observation and if we had more time we could have showed Kume what we wanted to do with a dummy or a doll.'

But Kume didn't let little Nayla out of his grip for days, and she grew gradually weaker.

Then on Tuesday this week Kume finally left baby Nayla alone and staff we able to enter the enclosure and give her some much-needed milk.

And then keepers witnessed something even more extraordinary.

Nayla was picked up by a chimpanzee called Vanessa, aged 27, who put the infant on her back with her own two-year-old daughter, Lila.

Vanessa is able to feed Nayla and has been accepted as having another youngster in tow by the group - a complex and strongly hierarchical structure.

Dr Klomburg added: 'Little Lila was a bit peeved at first having to share the attention of her mother with another. And Kume was off sleeping - being a stepdad took it out of him!'

Chimps rejecting their young is an extremely rare phenomenon - but another chimp adopting such an outcast is even more rare.

'At least there is a happy ending to this story,' said Dr Klomburg.



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