Baby chimp born in front of visitors at Chester Zoo

Sarah Knapton
The chimpanzee was born to mother Alice at Chester Zoo this week - Chester Zoo

A critically endangered chimpanzee was born in front of delighted visitors at Chester Zoo earlier this week.

The new baby was safely delivered in front of a handful of zoo guests at around 5pm on Saturday following a seven-and-a-half-month pregnancy for mother Alice.

One onlooker described the birth as “honestly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen” while another said it was “pretty epic.” 

Zoo conservationists say the new baby, a female which is yet to named, is in good health and is spending her time bonding with her mother and other members of the 21-strong group of chimpanzees.

Primate experts said the birth was a boost to the conservation breeding programme for the West African species.

The chimp, who hasn't been named yet, with mother Alice Credit: Chester Zoo

It is estimated that as few as 18,000 West African chimpanzees remain in the wild and it is the first subspecies of chimpanzee to be added to the list of critically endangered apes.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director at the zoo, said:  “This new baby is a significant addition to this multi-generational chimpanzee group at the zoo - and a vital boost to the conservation breeding programme for the critically endangered species. 

“Alice and her daughter have bonded well and she’s doing a wonderful job of caring for her so far. A new baby always creates lots of excitement and Alice has plenty of support from some of the other experienced mums in the group, who are all keen to lend a helping hand. 

“The youngster provides particular cause for celebration given the plight of chimpanzees in Africa. More chimpanzees are hunted for the illegal bush meat trade than are born each year, causing populations to plummet in the wild.

"Couple that with the fact that humans are destroying their habitats and it’s easy to see why these fantastic animals – one of our closest cousins – are being pushed towards extinction.

“This new arrival is a step towards changing the fortunes for the species.” 

There are only 18,000 West African chimps left in the wild Credit: Chester Zoo

Conservationists at the zoo have been working in Africa to protect some of the world’s rarest chimpanzee species for more than 20 years.

The expert teams have helped protect one of the last major strongholds of the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee in Gashaka Gumti National park in Nigeria.