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Saint Louis Zoo Chimpanzee Family Welcomes
26-Year-Old "Kijana" Into Troop

World Chimpanzee Day is July 14; National Zookeeper Week is July 15-21

Just in time for World Chimpanzee Day on July 14 and National Zookeeper Week July 15 to 21, Kijana (pronounced kih-JAH-nah), a 26-year-old male chimpanzee, is making his public debut at the Saint Louis Zoo. Kijana moved to St. Louis from the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas in April to join the family, or troop, of eight (two other males and six females) at the Donn & Marilyn Lipton Fragile Forest at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The move was based on a recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program to manage a genetically healthy chimpanzee population. Kijana is the father of Jumoke, a male born in 2015 at Little Rock Zoo.

"Kijana's arrival at the Zoo and integration into our chimpanzee family is the result of tremendous teamwork between zoos, our dedicated animal care staff, and the animals," said Heidi Hellmuth, Curator of Primates at the Zoo.

Over the past few months, the chimpanzees have been getting acquainted under the observation of the animal care staff. Chimpanzees are very social and live in groups with both males and females.

"Alliances and relationships among members of a chimpanzee community are very important and are carefully considered when planning introductions," said Helen Boostrom, Primate Unit Zoological Manager at the Zoo. "Kijana was first introduced to Hugo, 25, the dominant male, and the two were given the opportunity to bond. Hugo is highly respected by the chimpanzee group and his acceptance and support of Kijana was important for Kijana's integration into the group."

Next, Jimiyu, 26, was introduced to form a male group and the three were given a chance to bond for several weeks. During this time, the animal care staff observed closely and saw positive social interactions among the three males — playing chase and wrestling as well as foraging or grooming together. Once Hugo and Jimiyu formed strong bonds with Kijana, then the animal care staff started integrating the six females into the group.

With each chimpanzee introduction, current alliances, group dynamics and personalities, as well as keeper observations were carefully considered and discussed by the team before moving to the next introduction.

"Kijana is very socially savvy," said Kim Emerson, a Great Ape Keeper at the Zoo. "He's often spending time near Hugo, playing with Jimiyu or several of the females in the group. We couldn't be happier about the way this chimpanzee family has come together."

The chimpanzee family can be seen this summer at Fragile Forest, weather permitting.

About Chimpanzees and Conservation

Chimpanzees are critically endangered in their native Africa. Populations are perilously low due to several factors, including deforestation, disease and the bushmeat crisis (illegally sold meat from wild animals). The Zoo is dedicated to caring for chimpanzees both at the Zoo and through the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, which works with partners to help conserve chimpanzees in their natural environments.

World Chimpanzee Day is July 14

The first-ever World Chimpanzee Day on Saturday, July 14, is a worldwide celebration of chimpanzees and an opportunity to raise awareness about the vital need for worldwide participation in their care, protection, and conservation in the wild and in captivity.

National Zookeeper Week is July 15-21

Created by the Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), National Zookeeper Week is celebrated each year in July. During the week, zoos nationwide honor animal care professionals and the work they do in animal care, conservation and education. The Saint Louis Zoo has more than 100 zookeepers on staff and most of them hold bachelor's degrees or higher in biology, zoology or a related field. The Zoo's well-trained keepers provide the best possible care for the animals. This includes, but is not limited to: providing species-appropriate diets and enrichment for all of the Zoo's animals, keeping records, cleaning exhibits, monitoring animal health, conducting scientific research, educating the public and training animals using positive reinforcement, and much more. Keeper chats are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. every day, and animal enrichment and training presentations are at 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, at various locations throughout the Zoo during summer. See schedule.


About the Saint Louis Zoo
Chosen as America's top free attraction and best zoo in USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice Awards, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Zoo attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors a year. For more information, visit,,,, Snapchat (saintlouiszoo), and