An adult chimpanzee mauled a baby chimp to death Tuesday inside their exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo in front of a crowd of visitors, zoo officials said.
The 3-month-old chimp was the first to be born at the zoo habitat in 13 years, and she was gradually being introduced to the coed troop of 15 adults when an adult male chimpanzee fatally injured her in their habitat, zoo spokesperson Jason Jacobs said in a statement.
The unnamed infant was born in early March to a chimp at the zoo named Gracie, who “had proven to be a caring mother,” the zoo said. Gracie was allowed to keep the chimp overnight to grieve her loss.
Zoo staff didn’t witness the attack, but said it happened in front of a crowd of visitors.
“I did talk to a couple of visitors as I was coming up here, tried to help them process what they had seen,” Director John Lewis told NBCLosAngeles.com. “We also had some other visitors help us get a better understanding.”
Deputy Director Denis Verret said grief counseling was made available for visitors and staff.
Zoo officials said acts of aggression among the troop of chimps were not expected.
“Everything that we saw has been positive, all the chimps have been very interested, wanting to either be close to, or touch the baby,” Jennie Becker, the zoo’s curator of mammals, told KCAL-TV.
Male chimpanzees are well known for violence, including the killing of the young. Scientists speculate that clashes over stomping grounds might fuel these conflicts, and the human encroachment on chimpanzee territory, such as in zoo environments, may exacerbate them.
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