Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Chimps' twins surprise keepers

Cherri the chimpanzee with her twin girls, Thelma and Louise, who were born last week at Monkey World in Dorset (Monkey World)

A chimpanzee who was on birth control has given birth to twins to the surprise of her keepers.

Cherri's contraceptives failed when she had a chest infection last winter and was put on antibiotics.

Her twin girls, Thelma and Louise, were born last week, on September 25, at Monkey World in Dorset.

Female chimpanzees at Monkey World are given birth control to avoid over-populating the 65-acre primate rescue centre.

Dr Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World, said Cherri, in her 20s, was being supported by the 18 other chimpanzees there.

"We knew that Cherri was pregnant but twins were a surprise as they are not very common," Dr Cronin said.

"So far Cherri is doing a great job with the girls and is very attentive to both their needs. If one is turned around the wrong way, Cherri makes sure that both babies are placed near to her breasts so that both infants have a good opportunity to feed.

"It is fantastic to see her doing so well, especially as chimpanzees use their hands and feet to walk and climb but Cherri is very conscious to help support the two infants, so her hands are full even when she is climbing up our 20m climbing frames."

"It is also wonderful to see how supportive the whole group is as they are all orphans from the entertainment industry, laboratories, black market pet trade, and defunct zoos. We do not breed chimpanzees at Monkey World, but it is really nice to see how the whole group has come together as a family and all interested in the babies."

Dr Cronin said Cherri's contraception previously failed more than 10 years ago, when she was less interested in her baby.

Keepers are keeping a close eye on her new arrivals, which will be dependent on their mother for the next four to five years.

Cherri was smuggled out of Africa to be used as a photographers' prop in Spain and arrived at Monkey World in 1992, after suffering a broken jaw.

Her twins' father, Hanaya, the dominant male of the group, was smuggled from the wild to Israel for the illegal pet trade and arrived at the rescue centre in 1996.

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