MASS EXTINCTION UNDERWAY II Jul 20, 2007 21:09:18 GMT -5
Post by Big Bunny on Jul 20, 2007 21:09:18 GMT -5
Taronga Zoo chimps grieve for Fifi
By Steve Gee
July 21, 2007 01:00am
Article from: The Daily Telegraph
THEY share more than 90 per cent of human DNA. And like a family grieving one of its own, Taronga Zoo's troupe of chimps have shown the most human qualities as they mourn the death 60-year-old matriarch, Fifi.
For about an hour after the primate passed away on Thursday, the 19 chimpanzees, who share the enclosure, virtually closed ranks, surrounding her body in a poignant gesture of shared heartache.
They each had their moment of closure; some patting and sniffing the fallen ape, while others simply sat in silence.
"It was as if they all wanted to say goodbye," headkeeper Melissa Beaven said yesterday.
"Normally they are very boisterous, but it was very quiet.
"They didn't want to leave her."
Ms Beaven said even before Fifi's body was discovered, keepers knew there was a problem.
"You could judge by the rest of the group's behaviour that something had happened," she said.
"They were all very close to her.
"They spent a bit of time sitting next to her.
The much loved primate, who celebrated her 60th birthday in May, died on Thursday.
A great grandmother, she had shown no sign of illness apart from arthritis and minor age-related ailments.
Because of the cold, keepers allowed Fifi to stay inside her enclosure on Thursday and it was only when they entered to give her an afternoon feed of fruit that her body was discovered.
Ms Beaven said the chimps spent the hours leading to her death filing in and out of the enclosure, as if paying their final respects.
"She made herself a big comfortable nest of paper in the night house and it looks like she basically went to sleep in the early afternoon, so it was nice and quick," she said.
Ms Beaven said the chimps were quieter than usual yesterday.
It was clear they missed Fifi.
"She has been at the zoo for over 40 years so she has had an important role to play within the community," Ms Beaven said.