10/05/2012 05:15 pm ET

Orphaned Chimpanzee Ruben Finds New Home, Surrogate Mother At Oklahoma City Zoo (PHOTOS)

An orphaned chimpanzee now has a new home at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Ruben, born at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, was left without a caregiver after his mother, Rukiya, died of a heart condition soon after he was born. Zoo officials believed Ruben's father would be incapable of looking after him.

“His father wanted to play all the time and Ruben just wasn't ready for that,” Lowry park curator Lee Ann Rottman told NewsOK.

After 8 months of trial and error, Ruben now has a family in Kito, his surrogate mother, and her troop thanks to the surrogacy program at Oklahoma City Zoo.


“Our Zoo has had two successful chimpanzee surrogate situations and we are gaining a good reputation among accredited zoos for our surrogate program,” Laura Bottaro, Oklahoma City Zoo mammal curator, said in a OKC Zoo press release.

However, having a successful surrogacy situation isn't usually easy, zoo curator Robin Newby told NewsOK, because chimpanzee communities have a complex hierarchal structure that can be hard to understand. Though Kito had been a successful surrogate before there were still no guarantees that she would accept Ruben, but curators trusted her saint-like patience.

Kito gently bonded with Ruben by leading him to her without any kind of force.

“Her strategy is to gather all of the nice bedding material each night, things like hay and wood wool, which is shredded wood,” Bottaro said to NewsOK. “She puts that stuff around her. She never forced him. She waited for him to come to her. She was saying to him, ‘Unless you want to sleep on a hard floor, you have to be in my vicinity.'”

And it worked. Just a few weeks in, Ruben is already adjusting well to his new family, seen riding on his surrogate mother, Kito's, back and playing with the others.

In the wild, common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are listed as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. With a significant population decline in recent decades, according to the organization, chimps are threatened by "high levels of exploitation, loss of habitat and habitat quality due to expanding human activities."

Check out other baby animals born at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Orphaned Chimp Ruben