The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chimpanzee, George Turns One YO

Knoxville Zoo's baby chimpanzee, George, celebrated his first birthday on Saturday, July 18, 2009. The chimpanzee exhibit was decorated with colorful streamers, plates, presents and even a "birthday cake" made of frozen fruits. By noon the Knoxville Zoo had over 2,000 visitors.

Knoxville Zoo baby chimpanzee George ripped paper streamers and peeked into food-filled, tissue-wrapped presents during an early first birthday celebration last week.

Sometimes last Tuesday the small, agile ape climbed a few feet up poles in the indoor courtyard of the zoo's Chimp Ridge exhibit. He often held onto a rope to swing in wide, slow circles inches from the ground. He slapped his front hands on courtyard concrete before dashing to see his mother, Daisy, or his constant protector, zoo chimp Debbie. He munched Fruit Loops, strawberries and orange slices.

His newest toys that day were the sunshine yellow and royal blue streamers that zookeepers had looped around the exhibit's climbing platforms. After ripping down the paper, he draped lengths of the streamers around his shoulders like a shawl.

His actions drew crowds of children, parents and grandparents. Children called out "Baby George! Curious George!" as mothers snapped photos.

The first chimp born at the zoo in 20 years is accustomed to the attention. The zoo also threw a party for him Saturday.

As the last visitors walked away Tuesday, George toddled to a courtyard window and stood on his back legs. Just tall enough to peep over the window ledge, he seemed curious about where all the humans had gone.

Born July 19, 2008, the son of chimps Daisy and Jimbo is growing into a curious, secure, strong-willed ape. George loves to climb and munch fruit, and seems afraid of nothing.

Grayson Bethards, 3, of Middlesboro, Kentucky, right, was one of the 2,000 visitors who had come to the zoo by noon on Saturday.

These days he lives with Daisy, 33, and Debbie, 38. The zoo's other six grown chimps - males Jimbo, 30, and Lu, 19, and females Julie, 23, Jackie, 35, and Bo and Binti, both 25 - are currently exhibited together. Jackie, Bo and Binti are relatively new to the troupe, having arrived from the Cleveland, Ohio, Zoo shortly before George's birth.

Efforts to totally integrate the group are temporarily on hold. Zookeepers had to separate the chimps last month after a few hours because of nearly constant fighting.

Even as the adults were taunting, biting and chasing each other, George seemed protected.

"He was right there, in the middle of it, sitting on the floor. No one touched him," said Lisa New, the zoo's director of animal collections for mammals and birds. "They (other chimps) have a healthy respect of who is looking out for George, and that's his mother and Debbie."

In his first year, George has met all the other chimps.

"He likes them all," New said.

George has played with Jackie, though his mother doesn't like her, and with Bo, often the object of adult chimp aggression. He wants to play with Binti but the timid animal tosses hay at him. He ran into the arms of his father after they were apart and hugged and kissed Debbie after a week's separation. He once wrapped his baby arms around a big, unhappy and weeping Bo even though all the other chimps ignored her.

Spoiled by Daisy and Debbie, George is growing up safe and surrounded by "animals that care for him and protect him," New said. In turn he's fiercely protective of his mother. He barks and slaps adult apes, including Jimbo, who he feels are bothering Daisy.

George's next four years will be filled with exploration and play. Like a human toddler, he'll move from his mother but run back to her. As he nears age 6, he'll copy his father and Lu and want to be with them more.

As the first child of Jimbo and Daisy, George is important genetically to the future of chimps in North American zoos.

He's special to the zoo's apes in another way. Lu, Bo, Binti and Jimbo have never lived with a baby. "He is teaching them about infants," New said.

As the offspring of a strong-willed mother, George is "fearless. He never has had cause to fear. So he is very outgoing," New said. "Over the next few years his personality is really going to come out. I fully expect him to cause plenty of trouble because that's what baby chimps do. They are usually not strongly disciplined (by other chimps)."

And with Daisy and Debbie, George is assured of powerful protection through his childhood.

"Even if he gets into trouble, they will fight his battles," New said.

Amy McRary may be reached at 865-342-6437.

Today marks the last installment of the News Sentinel's yearlong look at the development of George the chimpanzee. The first chimp born at the Knoxville Zoo in 20 years, he also was among the few chimps born at any U.S. zoo in 2008. Someday he likely will become the leader of the Knoxville troupe. W


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