New baby chimp at Kansas City Zoo suffering from life-threatening viral infection

Gracie, a female chimpanzee, was born on Jan. 9 at the Kansas City Zoo.
Gracie, a female chimpanzee, was born on Jan. 9 at the Kansas City Zoo.

Few are escaping this cold and flu season unscathed.

The Kansas City Zoo announced this week that Gracie, the baby chimpanzee born in KC on Jan. 9, has fallen ill with a life-threatening viral infection.

Around a month after she was born, keepers removed her from the zoo's troupe of chimpanzees, including her mother, 21-year-old Teetoo. She currently is being cared for by zoo staff.

"Zookeepers noticed that she did not seem to be as large or as active as previous chimp babies had been," Kansas City Zoo officials posted on Facebook. "She had to be removed from Teetoo in order to evaluate her health, and after testing, our animal health team determined that Gracie had a life-threatening viral infection. She has been undergoing vital treatment and her prognosis is good. However, her weakened immune system has left her vulnerable as she travels the road to recovery."

The zoo preps for these situations over and over before the baby animals are born, training some soon-to-be ape mothers with stuffed animals to show them babies' different parts, hold them up for examination and even pass them over to human handlers before they're born.

The zoo's young chimp Ruw, born in 2016, was rejected by her mother and raised by zookeepers before slowly being reintroduced to the troupe. Gracie's treatment likely will take several months.

"For now, Gracie’s human caregivers are acting as surrogate chimp mothers," the zoo wrote in its post. "As much as possible, they mimic the types of behavior that will allow the baby to continue to develop her natural instincts. They wear a fuzzy black vest when caring for her so that she has hair to hold on to as she would her mother’s. And because baby chimpanzees are constantly carried by their mothers, Gracie is also held around the clock. She is constantly evaluated and currently receives a bottle every two hours."

Gracie and Teetoo continue to bond, zoo officials said, with regular visual and vocal contact.

Zookeepers make a special effort when it comes to making sure the baby animals are well cared for.