Infant Chimp Adopted by OKC Zoo troop

Oklahoma City Zoo chimpanzees known nationally for their capacity to foster infant chimps have a new member in the troop. After being hand-raised at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, seven-month-old Ruben arrived at the Oklahoma City Zoo on July 30, 2012.

Ruben’s mother, Rukiya (ROO-KEE-YA) died just 24 hours after giving birth during a medical procedure. For Ruben, losing his mother, being treated roughly by his father and not being accepted by his surrogate mother meant a rough start for a new life. Ruben needed a new home.

“The big benefit of being accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is collaboration with other zoos. This is especially true for the well-being of our animals, such as being able to provide the long-term social health of this infant chimp, Ruben.” said Alan Varsik, Oklahoma City Zoo deputy director.

From birth, Ruben received around-the-clock care from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo caregivers, who accompanied him to Oklahoma City and stayed to monitor his progress during the first 72 hours of transition.

Just weeks later, Ruben is blending well and being accepted by his new chimp family. Gradually, he has been introdu ced to the dominate male, Mwami; his surrogate mother, Kito; adult male,Quadeer; adult female, Cindy; and four-year-old, Zoe. “Our Zoo has had two successful chimpanzee surrogate situations and we are gaining a good reputation among accredited zoos for our surrogate program,” said Laura Bottaro, Oklahoma City Zoo mammal curator.

The Zoo’s first chimpanzee surrogate need occurred in 2008 after the birth of Zoe. Simil ar to Ruben, Zoe lost her mother, Chloe, during the birth process. Zoe was hand-raised for six months by the Zoo’s animal management team and successfully reintroduced to her biological father, Mwami; her nurturing surrogate, Abby; and an active playmate, Cindy.

Next, Siri, born at the Kansas Sunset Zoo by 57-year-old Suzy, the oldest known chimpanzee to give birth, came to the Zoo in April 2011. Because Suzy was not able to produce enough nutritional milk for Siri to thrive, Siri arrived in critical condition. A team of medical professionals was mobilized to assess and treat the fragile Siri. As she was recovering, Siri also underwent a partial arm amputation, after one of the female chimpanzees reached for her and accidentally damaged her arm. Siri’s struggles have been overcome by her inspiring will to thrive and the care provided by her surrogate parents, Mwami and Kito, and many dedicated Zoo and medical professionals.

The Zoo plans to continue its surrogacy efforts as needed locally and abroad as part of the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, a cooperative conservation and breeding program for species at risk of extinction. “It’s rewarding when we can create a family for these endangered and at-risk animals,” said Robin Newby, Oklahoma City Zoo Great EscApe supervisor.

With all introduction processes, the animals dictate by their behavior when they are ready to meet new family members. Eventually, Ruben will meet Abby and Siri, and his family will be complete. While Ruben continues to adapt, the Zoo prepares to introduce him to the public shortly. Updates on Ruben’s progress and debut dates will be posted online at , on Twitter @okczo and Facebook at

Visit Oklahoma’s number one attraction and one of the nation’s top three zoos, as named in the 2012 10Besties Readers’ Choice Travel Awards! The Oklahoma City Zoo is a proud member of Oklahoma City’s Adventure District located near the crossroads of I-44 and I-35.  The Zoo is open every day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Buildings close at 4:45 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, and $5 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children 2 and under are admitted free. Military members, spouses and up to 5 children receive a 50 percent discount. For more information, call (405) 424-3344 or visit

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