Friday, July 13, 2001

Zoo baby beats the odds


Mom has had surgeries for abdominal ills

By Emily Biuso
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden's newest babies is not only an endangered species, she's an offspring veterinarians weren't sure was even possible.

        Lindsey, a 2-week-old bonobo who made her public debut Thursday at the zoo, was born to 20-year-old Lisa, who had two major abdominal surgeries in 1996. (A bonobo resembles a chimpanzee but is smaller.)

[photo] Two-week-old Lindsey clings to her mother, Lisa, in the Jungle Trails exhibit at the zoo Thursday.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        Because of scar tissue, veterinarians and zookeepers weren't certain Lisa could carry a pregnancy to a full nine-month term.

        “Getting pregnant isn't that easy,” said Cincinnati Zoo head veterinarian Mark Campbell.

        Lindsey, born June 27, is the first bonobo born in Cincinnati since 1995. The event was also somewhat of a surprise to zoo officials because pregnancy tests for bonobos can be unreliable. As recently as one week before the birth, a pregnancy test came back negative.

        “They said she wasn't pregnant, but all the keepers, we knew she was,” said Janet Crenshaw, a zookeeper for Jungle Trails, the exhibit where the zoo's nine bonobos live.

ZOO SUCCESSES
    The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden's captive breeding program is regarded as one of the nation's most successful. The tradition dates back to 1878, when Cincinnati was the site of the first California sea lion born in captivity.
    Other successes:
    • U.S. record for lowland gorilla births (47). The only zoo in the world more successful is London's Howletts Zoo with 53.
    • U.S. record for black rhino births (18).
    • First elephant conceived and born in Ohio since the Ice Age. Mother Jati delivered Ganesh in 1998.
    • First zoo in 112 years to successfully breed a Sumatran rhino, and only the second in history. Emi, the rhino, is due in late summer or early fall.
    • Four white lions of Timbavati, born April 1, 2001. Extinct in the wild, they're four of 29 left in the world.
    • First test tube gorilla, born 1995.
    • First sand cat born in captivity, 1963.
    • First caracal born in the western hemisphere, 1963.
    • First crowned guenon born in captivity, 1964.
        Lisa had given birth twice before at the zoo before she became ill in 1995. Veterinarians and surgeons from Children's Hospital Medical Center performed an exploratory laparotomy — a surgical procedure that examined her abdomen.

        She was diagnosed with bilateral tubo-ovarian abscesses, which affected both the ovaries and oviducts. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with peritonitis, an infection of the abdomen that required further surgery.

        Veterinarians considered performing a hysterectomy, which would have removed Lisa's ovaries and uterus and left her sterile. But they decided against it, in part, because of how valuable Lisa is as a breeder for an endangered species.

        “If you only have 100 in the world (in captivity), one is very important,” Dr. Campbell said.

        The decision not to remove her reproductive organs came with some problems, but proved right, Dr. Campbell said.

        Five years later, visitors can't detect anything amiss with the healthy bonobo, who jumped around her exhibit Thursday with Lindsey clinging to her tummy.

        Bonobos, at one time called “pygmy chimpanzees,” are mainly found in Africa's Democratic Republic of Congo. Experts estimate there are fewer than 10,000 left in the world. Cincinnati has one of the largest bonobo exhibits in the country, along with zoos in Columbus, Milwaukee and San Diego, Dr. Campbell said.
       



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