Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy 50th Birthday Keo!

My mom is a docent at Lincoln Park Zoo and she is always talking about all the animals. She tells me that zoos have changed a lot since she was young and that animals are living longer each year.

Keo celebrates his birthday today and he is the oldest male chimp in a North American zoo.

Keo usually lives behind the scenes in a non-public area of the Regenstein Center for African Apes, ceding the spotlight to the zoo's second, younger chimp troop. But in honor of his 50th birthday, the zoo put Keo back on public exhibit with the three females in his group.

Born in Africa, Keo was taken from the wild as a year-old infant to Lincoln Park. There, he was raised by humans. Today, importing wild chimps is illegal, and most chimps born in zoos are raised by other chimps.Much of Keo's childhood was spent in the children's zoo, where he was called upon to wear a hat and preside over pretend tea parties, once a favorite for zoo publicity photos. In his old age, Keo was the first ape in Lincoln Park trained to use a touch-screen computer as a part of cognitive experiments Ross launched three years ago.

I love my animal friends and wish that I could visit Keo in person, but dogs are not allowed at the zoo. Instead of celebrating today with Keo, I will be watching video of him on my computer. It will be just like being there.
If you are in the Lincoln Park area this week, please stop by and visit Keo. And if you are there on Friday, Keo's girlfriend and my mom's fellow docent Sue will most likely be right by Keo's side.

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