Monarto Zoo miracle chimp adopted after losing his mum during birth

The incredible complexity and strength of Chimpanzee communities has been on display at Monarto Zoo in the Adelaide Hills this week, where a ‘miracle chimp’ infant has been adopted after losing his mother Soona during birth on Friday.

Monarto has named the orphaned infant Boon, meaning ‘blessing’, in memory of his late mum, who zoo keepers lovingly referred to as Soona the Boon or Boona.

Male Chimpanzee Gombe cared for Boon shortly after birth until fellow expectant mum, Zombi, adopted the newborn after having remained by Soona’s side until she passed.

Monarto Zoo Senior Primate Keeper, Laura Hanley says the six day old male is strong and healthy and thriving under the experienced care of his adopted mum.

“The last few days have been a whirlwind of emotion, but the silver lining is that our little Boon is doing incredibly well considering his rough start to life,” Laura said.

Boon with his adoptive mother Zombi at Monarto Zoo.

Boon with his adoptive mother Zombi at Monarto Zoo. Photo: Dave Mattner, Monarto Zoo.

“I’m humbled by what we’ve seen from the Chimpanzee troop over the last few days – it’s unheard of to see a heavily pregnant Chimpanzee adopt an orphaned newborn infant.

“The unique situation certainly reinforces the strong bond our chimps share and the similarities these amazing creatures have with their closest living relative, us.

“Zombi is proving to be an excellent adoptive mum. From the minute she first cradled the newborn she’s been amazing – grooming, supporting and nursing the little man as though he was her own.”

Zombi is on her own incredible journey with her second infant due in the coming weeks. Zoo keepers will continue to monitor her closely, but feel optimistic she’ll be able to care for Boon and her own infant simultaneously.

“Zombi’s a confident and capable mum, and has the support of an amazing chimp troop. We can’t completely predict the outcome, but know if any chimp can look after two infants at once, Zombi can,” Laura said.

“When the time comes for her to have her own infant, we’ll let nature take its course and only intervene if Zombi appears to be struggling or if the infants require supplementary feeding.”

Monarto Zoo is South Australia’s open-range zoo. It is one of the biggest in the world, spanning more than 1,000 hectares and displaying more than 50 species of mammals, birds and reptiles in large enclosures.

The Chimpanzee Platform has reopened to the public and the troop currently has access to all areas of the habitat, including the main outside habitat, the dayroom and internal den space.