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After death of baby chimpanzee at L.A. Zoo, mother chimp mourns

June 28, 2012 |  6:08 am

 She didn't have a name. She was only about 3 months old, after all. But as the first baby chimpanzee born at the Los Angeles Zoo in 13 years, she had already earned a spot in the hearts of many staffers and visitors.

Zoo officials spent Wednesday investigating the death of the baby chimpanzee who they say was killed by an adult male chimp in front of dozens of zoo visitors in her habitat the day before.

As officials tried to figure out what went wrong, the baby chimp's mother, Gracie, spent the night with the body of her child to grieve. And she wasn't the only one.

"This is going to be a big grieving period for a lot of the staff members," zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said.

Late Wednesday, Jacobs said that caretakers began allowing other chimps to visit Gracie inside her area of the habitat to further help console her. 

Chimp infanticide behavior occurs in captivity and in the wild, said Craig Stanford, a USC professor in anthropology and biological sciences. He added that he was impressed that the zoo had allowed the mother to keep her dead baby overnight. In the wild, Stanford said females often carry their dead young for weeks as part of their mourning process.

"I think it's very healthy to let her mourn as she might in the wild," he said.

Jacobs said he has not yet received detailed reports concerning Tuesday's incident, adding, "We just know it happened really fast."


Zoo in shock after baby chimpanzee killed by adult chimp

Baby chimp killed: Zoo has no immediate plans to change policy 

Baby chimpanzee killed by adult chimp at L.A. Zoo as visitors watch

-- Matt Stevens and Jon Bardin