TAMPA, Florida - A 2-month-old chimpanzee in need of a mother has moved to a central Florida zoo to be paired with a surrogate to raise her.
Keeva, the baby chimp, was born at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. She was the first child of a 27-year-old longtime member of its chimp troop.
While Keeva appeared healthy at 2.6 pounds, her mother was not caring for her properly, according to zoo officials, who began searching for a surrogate.
They found Abby, a 32-year-old chimp at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, who previously helped to raise two other orphaned chimps from infancy to adolescence.
"We know Abby has the instincts and skills to raise a baby chimp," said Lowry Park Zoo's general curator, Lee Ann Rottman, in a joint statement this week from both zoos.
Keeva arrived at the Tampa zoo in late March and has been growing stronger under human care, kept behind protective mesh that allows its four adult chimps to see, hear and smell her.
Abby is among those watching with great interest as Keeva is learning to hold up her head, make facial expressions and vocalize, the zoo said.
Zoo officials plan to introduce the Keeva to her surrogate mother when she is about 4 to 6 months old.
Infant chimps are dependent on their mothers for at least five years, zoo officials said in the statement. The endangered species is considered the closest living genetic relatives to humans.