Baby chimp’s birth ‘a miracle,’ Sedgwick County Zoo says

The Sedgwick County Zoo shared a photo of its newborn chimpanzee, Kucheza.
The Sedgwick County Zoo shared a photo of its newborn chimpanzee, Kucheza.(Sedgwick County Zoo)
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 4:40 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Sedgwick County Zoo is calling the birth of a baby chimpanzee a miracle. The nationally-renowned zoo in Wichita credits its staff, including veterinarians and zookeepers for Kucheza’s successful birth and helping him survive through his first couple of days until he could be reunited with his mother.

The home of the great apes at the Sedgwick County Zoo requires the love, attention and care from zookeepers like Devin Turner. On Tuesday morning, Turner, who’s been with the zoo since 2001, saw one of its chimp’s, Mahale, in labor. Turner said Mahale’s labor progressed, then stalled, raising concerns.

“We became concerned and we also were watching her get more and more tired,” Turner said. “She was just looking exhausted.”

Taking action, Turner sedated Mahale.

“You have to give a lot of kudos to the keepers because they have such a good relationship that Mahale trusted the keepers enough,” said Sedgwick County Zoo Animal Health Director Dr. Heather Arens.

After the emergency C-section to deliver Kucheza, Turner was the first to hold the newborn chimp. He was having trouble breathing. This is where keepers stepped up to make sure he survived.

“We stayed with him over the night and luckily, he improved over the evening and he even started really responding to treatments. And we were lucky he could come back and be with his family,” Turner said.

She’s among those with the Sedgwick County Zoo calling Kucheza’s birth a miracle. She said the last chimp pregnancy at the zoo in 2019 resulted in a still birth.

“Heartbreaking to watch how sad she was and to watch her grieve,” Turner said of the mother chimp who lost her baby at birth.

“So, on Tuesday, the fact that we were able to have a live baby and to watch Mahale on Thursday show that joy. That is why we do what we do.”

“That joy” for Mahale came with her being able to reunite with Kucheza. That reunion, captured on video by Sedgwick County Zoo staff has been shared with millions of people around the world.

The rest of Kucheza’s family is waiting until they can gather with mom and baby. This will happen in about two weeks after Mahale recovers from her C-section, the zoo said.

“From the time that they’re born, they know they need to cling to live,” Turner said of newborn chimps. “So, [Mahale] won’t pull [Kucheza] off of her, but she will come up so we can see him. He seems to be very relaxed, which is a good. He’s confident and he feels safe with his mom, and that’s exactly what we want.”

The zoo said Kucheza’s father is likely Moshi, the father of Mabusu, who, at 12 years old, was the previous successful birth at the Sedgwick County Zoo. The zoo is waiting on DNA confirmation to determine if the likely scenario or Moshi being Kucheza’s father is actually the case.

The zoo said Kucheza is Mahale’s third baby.