Widowed chimpanzee set up on blind date
Tuesday 30 Aug 2011 3:14 p.m.
Two lonely chimpanzees from zoos in neighbouring countries have been given a new lease on life.
Experts from Argentina and Chile introduced them to each other in the hope that they will establish a new group of their own.
Gombe, a 10-year-old male chimp, was attacked by the alpha male of the group at the Buenos Aires Zoo and cast out by the others as a result. For his own safety, Gombe was separated from the others and kept in a secluded cage.
But chimpanzees are social animals and isolation can cause them anxiety, so zookeepers hoped one day he would be able to join another group.
That chance came when the Santiago Zoo began looking for a companion for a 32-year-old female whose lifetime companion had recently died.
After much consideration, the groundwork was laid and zookeepers prepared Gombe for a long journey. He travelled across the plains of Argentina and over the Andes Mountains to Santiago where the widowed female, Judy, waited.
Gombe needed to be sedated for the trip and there were no guarantees the chimps would take to each other once they were finally united. Nevertheless, the animals' caregivers hoped for the best.
Judy arrived to the Santiago zoo when she was just three-years-old. She came from Belgium along with Toto, who was her male companion for the next 28 years. They remained side by side until his death one year ago.
After a long and lonely year, Judy's caregivers hoped Gombe could raise her spirits.
A primate specialist from the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona, Hilda Tresz, came to Santiago to lend her knowledge and help in preparations leading up to the blind date.
Judy initially showed aggression towards the younger Gombe, but he responded with signals of submission and soon they were interacting peacefully.
It remains to be seen just how far these two will take their new relationship.
3 News / Reuters