Edinburgh Zoo has released the first pictures and a video of Velu, the first chimpanzee to be born in Scotland in 15 years
As Scotland waits on tenterhooks for the possible birth of a panda at Edinburgh Zoo, chimpanzee Heleen has been quietly nursing her own newboard Velu.
Now eight weeks old, the zoo has released the first pictures of the cheeky chimp who was born on 24 June and lives in the award winning Budongo Trail at Edinburgh Zoo with 18 other chimpanzees. He is the first chimpanzee to be successfully reared in Scotland in 15 years.
Velu is in fact extra special as he is a pure Western chimpanzee, a subspecies of the common chimpanzee that is underrepresented and listed by the IUCN Red List as an endangered species.
Mother Heleen is from a group of nine chimpanzees who arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from the Netherlands in 2010. The Dutch chimpanzees originally started life in a research laboratory, then were rehomed to Beekse Bergen Safari Park, before moving to Edinburgh to live in one of the world’s most innovative and interactive chimp enclosures.
Sophie Pearson, team leader for the Budongo Trail at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “We are delighted with the arrival and successful integration of Velu into our chimpanzee group.
“Still very young, Velu will look like a baby for another five years or so. He currently has a beautiful pale, pinky-coloured face which will darken as he gets older and has a mass of spiky hair.
“His father is either 38-year-old Louis or 21-year-old Rene, two of the males in our group. Later on we will do a paternity test to confirm.
“At Edinburgh Zoo we are extremely proud that Heleen is successfully raising Velu and that he has been accepted into the group. Chimpanzees learn from experience – they see their mothers and other group members give birth and raise youngsters – but unfortunately we suspect that Heleen did not have this experience in the earlier part of her life. However, after a tricky start, Heleen is coping extremely well and developing into a great mother, she is nursing, grooming and protecting her baby."
Chimpanzee groups are complex. As a species they are volatile and they have extremely complex social hierarchies. After the birth, Heleen and her baby were slowly integrated back into the main chimpanzee group – starting first with other females and her closest male allies, then building up to them both going back into the main group.
This has been successful to date and, although chimpanzee babies are always vulnerable, the zoo is confident Heleen is fully integrated back into the group and has a lot of support from her chimp friends.
Chimpanzees are found in the rainforests of west and central Africa. The Budongo Trail enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo is representative of this habitat. It features three pods which vary in degrees of temperature, light and humidity to reflect different conditions of their rainforest home in the wild. There is also an outdoor climbing and vegetation area which further stimulates the chimps to show natural physical, social and mental behaviours. All areas are connected by bridges and the chimpanzees can roam freely depending on their desired environment.
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland supports the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda where many projects take place including monitoring chimpanzee health and working with local communities to dissuade hunters from setting bush meat snares. Chimpanzees are also threatened by habitat loss and the entertainment industry.