Thabu the ‘webcam hit’ chimp turns one

2014-01-23 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The chimpanzee Thabu, whose birth was last year internationally broadcast on a webcam, has survived his first year and likes nothing more than his mealie porridge, bananas and melons.

Thabu, who lives at the Jane Goodall Institute in Chimp Eden outside Nelspruit, turns one today.

He was a bit of a late start for his mother Nina (10), who was on the pill.

Nina’s mother was shot by poachers in Sudan when she was five and staff at Chimp Eden did not know whether she knew how to raise a baby chimp.

Manager Phillip Cronje said they had an anxious first three days as the unschooled mother struggled with her baby.

He said Thabu did not drink for three days after his birth. “We wondered if we had to take him away when [Nina] handled him roughly and started to cover him in straw.”

Luckily, Thabu started to drink.

Recently, he had flu, which can be fatal for chimpanzees. “But he licked cough medicine from my finger and we taught him how to drink from a spoon.”

While he already likes his fruit, Thabu will only be weaned when he is five.

He only weighed 900 grams at birth, but now tips the scale at 3,5 kg. Cronje said the next challenge will be to integrate both Nina and Thabu into the rest of the troop.

“It will take lots of time and patience,” he said.

To celebrate his first year, staff will give him a block of ice filled with fruit, which the ape will enjoy when the temperature peaks at 31 in Nelspruit today.

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