Cuban woman turns mother for chimps

April 08, 2017
Zoologist Marta Llanes feeds Ada, a baby chimpanzee, while baby chimpanzee Anuma II, right, looks on, in Llanes's apartment in Havana, Cuba.


While zoos in other countries may have specialised facilities for raising baby animals, in Cuba, the job falls to Marta Llanes, a 62-year-old zoologist who has cared for 10 baby chimps in her central Havana apartment since she started working at the city zoo in 1983.

"I try to be the mother chimpanzee," Llanes said.

"If they say 'hu,' I say 'hu.' If they want me to drop to the floor, I drop to the floor. The only thing I can't do is swing. I used to do it, but I can't anymore, but they have to be taught to swing. They have to be taught everything."

The chimpanzee, an endangered species, separated from humans on the evolutionary tree about seven million years ago and shares some 90 per cent of our DNA. Chimps are known for their intelligence and use of basic tools. They live half a century in the wild and even longer in captivity.

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