A Chimpanzee Celebration

Today was a milestone day at Lincoln Park Zoo as we marked two big birthdays. Male chimpanzee Keo turned 55, and female Vicky joined the half-century club at 50.

It was an occasion for fun, obviously. Nadeau's Ice Sculptures Inc. donated two cool cakes—1,500 pounds of ice specially carved to commemorate the occasion, each filled with healthy goodies like grapes, carrots and strawberries.

Vicky examines the ice cakes donated by Nadeau's Ice Sculptures Inc.

Vicky examines the ice cakes donated by Nadeau's Ice Sculptures Inc.

The frozen treats were placed in the outdoor yard Keo’s troop shares behind the scenes at Regenstein Center for African Apes. The geriatric guests of honor investigated the “cakes” for a while before finally toppling them to get the food within. Vicky even probed the ice with a stick, much like a wild chimpanzee “fishing” from a termite mound. It was great to watch.

Keo enjoys a healthy birthday snack.

Keo enjoys a healthy birthday snack.

Beyond honoring these longtime Lincoln Park Zoo residents, the celebration also highlights the world-class care offered to all the zoo’s animals. Regular checkups, specialty care and nutritious diets help many live longer than ever before. (Indeed, Keo is the oldest living male chimpanzee in an accredited zoo.)

Vicky and Keo, for instance, receive regular consultations from cardiologists specializing in human care. Implanted EKG devices also help our veterinary experts monitor their heart health.

Keo and Vicky may have been the only ones to receive cake, but they weren’t the only chimpanzees with reasons to celebrate this week. The National Institutes of Health announced a plan to significantly reduce the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research, a move that will see most chimpanzees in labs “retired” to appropriate homes in sanctuaries.

This is a big step forward for these complex social animals. I’d like to thank Steve Ross, Ph.D., for his hard work on the advisory group informing this decision. Steve is a leading voice on the welfare of great apes, something that influences all his work as director of the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes.

In other chimpanzee welfare news, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still welcoming public comment on their recommendation to extend endangered status to all chimpanzees in the United States. I’m partnering with zoo directors around the country to advocate for this important change. I encourage you to express your support at this link.

Finally, while it’s not chimpanzee related, the zoo has extra cause to celebrate with the announcement of our next great exhibit: Regenstein Macaque Forest. Slated to open in fall 2014, this immersive habitat will offer a dynamic home for Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys. It will build on state-of-the-art lessons from Regenstein Center for African Apes, combining learning, research and world-class care in one amazing spot. Of course, I’ll keep you updated throughout the process.

Kevin Bell

Learn More

Sahar's third birthday offers a chance to share how much zoos have learned about animal longevity. Photo by Anthony Nielsen.

How Long Do They Live?
President and CEO Kevin Bell shares the third birthday for African lion Sahar along with a new understanding of animal life expectancies.


Chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo's Goualougo Triangle

The Golden Years
Geriatric animals thrive within Lincoln Park Zoo’s culture of care. This 2008 article includes Keo's 50th birthday celebration!



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