Behavior: Unlikely Mama

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A baby chimp is adopted

The future looked bleak for Roosje, or Little Rose. The latest member of the famed open-air chimpanzee colony at The Netherlands' Burgers Dierenpark, near Arnhem, she had been born to a handicapped mother who could not care for her.

Sadly, Zoo Manager Antoon van Hooff took Roosje home for bottle feeding. After being isolated from her peers, Roosje would probably never be accepted by the colony and would be sent to another zoo to grow up caged.

But Animal Behaviorist Frans de Waal of the State University of Utrecht had a better idea. Why not try to find another mother for Roosje? Her keepers chose Kuif, a high-ranking female in the colony. A worker began vigils outside Kuif s night cage holding bottle and babe. At first, Kuif did her best to hide her keen curiosity; in the chimp world, no one is supposed to approach a newborn without its mother's consent. After two weeks, Roosje was placed inside Kuifs cage, and to the scientists' delight, Kuif immediately cuddled her new charge, took a bottle, then awkwardly but lovingly began to feed Roosje. Remarkably, too, Kuif soon was producing milk herself, her mammary glands stimulated by her new baby.

For Van Hooff, who started the colony in 1971, the adoption is an exhilarating success. He points out that the new mother knew all along she was accepting a baby not her own. His next task: introducing Roosje to the colony in hopes that the other chimps will accept her.