A young female chimpanzee was believed to have been killed in an attack by another chimpanzee or chimpanzees in her troop at the Lowry Park Zoo, according to Animal Care staff.
Keeva found dead on Wednesday morning in the chimpanzee enclosure.
“Our team is absolutely heartbroken,” said Dr. Larry Killmar Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Zoological Officer at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “Chimpanzees have an incredibly complex and dynamic social hierarchy. Keeva was spending the night with two adult chimpanzees, Twiggy and Nick, who have been showing normal interactions with her up to this point. We closely and carefully monitor their behavior, and it is perplexing that this happened.”
The zoo says that Keeva came to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo from another zoo as an orphan in 2015 after her mother rejected her at birth.
"Since that time, she integrated into the Zoo’s troop and was successfully fostered by an adult chimp named Abby, who has fostered other infants successfully. For the first five months of Keeva’s life, a team of primate animal care specialists provided round-the-clock care," the zoo wrote.
“Keeva had a very amenable relationship with the two adults Twiggy and Nick who never showed any type of aggression towards her until today,” explained Killmar.
Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan Program Leader added, “Chimpanzees are a very volatile and physical species – engaging in conflict is a common part of chimp behavior. They occasionally fight and injure each other, sometimes resulting in the death of members of their own groups. Chimps are highly social and constantly negotiate their social standings, the hierarchy constantly changes."
The zoo says they will be making decisions going forward about how to manage the chimpanzee troop moving forward. The zoo is offering grief support to team members working to cope with the loss.
“The sad reality is that violence and mortality is not uncommon for chimpanzees, but nonetheless we are absolutely devastated to lose Keeva,” said Killmar. “We are now carefully evaluating the chimpanzee troop social dynamics and will bring in an outside review team of primate experts to help assess the situation. It is important to have a cohesive group for their social and emotional wellbeing, and we may be looking at some changes to this troop following this incident.”