Little Mama, the 73-year-old matriarch of the chimpanzee family at Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, is believed to be oldest chimp in captivity by no less an authority than famed anthropologist Jane Goodall, who first met Little Mama in 1972 when she passed through Palm Beach on a book tour. Lion Country doesn’t have the original adoption papers, but it is believed that Little Mama performed with the Ice Capades in the 1940’s and came to Lion Country in 1967.
The medical staff at Lion Country Safari, along with several visiting veterinarians, recently operated on Little Mama to remove loose and damaged teeth, and to treat several one -inch wounds on her lower back, likely caused by aggressive adolescent males. Females in her chimp family had carefully packed hay deep into those wounds, but the veterinarians were able to clean and stitch them and Little Mama’s healthy and happy again.
The two-hour procedure afforded the rare opportunity to perform a variety of exams, including sonograms, blood tests, and x-rays to get a better picture of Little Mama’s health.
“In the wild chimps don’t live to be much older than 50. For Little Mama, who is older than 70, getting all this attention should help make her last years more comfortable,” said Lion Country Safari Wildlife Director Terry Wolf.
“Despite her advanced age, she did very well under anesthesia. Aside from some severe periodontal disease (likely from not brushing her teeth in 73 years!), she is in great health,” said Lion Country veterinarian Elizabeth Hammond.
After two weeks of taking antibiotics and healing, Little Mama was back to normal. She now spends time on Lion Country’s chimp islands with a new group of chimpanzees that includes older, more mature companions to ensure her recovery and long term health. “She might return to her old group later on, but for now she is happy with these three other chimps,” said Wolf.
“Little Mama is a ray of sunshine on some very cloudy days. We have grown old together, she has shown me a lot of patience and where to go to get a smile,” said Wolf.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
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