An adorable moment was captured by staff at Maryland Zoo, Baltimore, in November when an 11-week-old chimp, Maisie, was filmed being tickled by her carers and laughing for the first time.
Baby chimp Maisie was in fact born at the Oklahoma City Zoo on Aug. 28 to first-time mother 12-year-old Nia. At birth, she weighed just 4 pounds (approx. 2 kg).
The cute footage, posted Nov. 14, shows Maisie playing with human baby toys and giggling with a wide grin at her carers, who give her a tickle under her arms.
Maisie is learning to interact much the way a human baby would. Additional footage, also on the zoo’s Facebook page, shows her playing with different toys and even checking herself in a mirror before she is introduced to the other chimps for the first time.
The zoo plans to pair Maisie with proven surrogate mom chimp Abby, who has looked after other abandoned babies before, but for now she is being hand-reared in a round-the-clock operation by zoo keepers.
The zoo's Chimp Forest Animal Care team work in three shifts, providing constant care over each 24-hour period. It is an intensive operation.
“Hand-raising a baby chimp is a huge undertaking and not one to be taken lightly,” says Erin Grimm, mammal collection and conservation manager for the zoo, on their own website.
“However, we are always happy to help our zoo colleagues, especially when it is in the best interest of the animal in question. This little chimp will be a welcome addition to our troop.”
Maisie’s introduction into the troop, which will take the zoo’s number to 15, is critical for her development. Her long-term needs will be best met by a surrogate family and interactions with other chimps.
For now however, she is getting some special individual care from the zoo’s staff.
“Maisie drinks baby formula every three hours, sleeps, and has some playtime every day to help strengthen her muscles,” area manager Pam Carter said, according to the Mail.
Staff also wear clothing with an added fringe to help Maisie learn to grip.
Chimps are highly social animals, just like humans. They mostly care for their offspring for many years, and can live to be up to 50 years of age.
Sadly though, due to a loss of habitat and hunting, they are classed as an endangered species. They have already disappeared completely from four countries.
Chimpanzees are smart though, and learn at the same rate as humans, according to research. Their gross motor skills begin to emerge at around four months, communication traits at 12 months, social interaction skills at 14 months, and fine motor skills at 15 months.
One thing is certain: the viral footage of Maisie has opened the eyes of many as to just how “human” these apes can really appear.