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A Chimpanzee Mystery: Who's Your Daddy?

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A Chimpanzee Mystery: Who's Your Daddy?


A Chimpanzee Mystery: Who's Your Daddy?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Just outside Shreveport, Louisiana, a drama worthy of day time television is playing out.


NORRIS: Teresa had settled into her older years, but she still gets plenty of attention from suitors. There's Jimmo, sweet as nature and quite obviously smitten, and Conan, bold and brawny, as his name might suggest. And then there's Magnum, young and agile at just 17.

Now, in the autumn of her life, Teresa thought she had left motherhood behind. Her last baby was born 13 years ago. This was a time to focus on companionship and safe relationships - or so she thought.


Teresa is now at the center of a mystery that has rock the facility called Chimp Haven. That's right, Teresa is a chimpanzee in her late 40s. She recently gave birth to a baby daughter despite the fact that every male chimp in the animal sanctuary has supposedly undergone a vasectomy.

Doctor Linda Brent is the director of Chimp Haven. She's also a behavioral primatologist who's known Teresa for 20 years.

LINDA BRENT: The colony manager came in and told me I was a grandma. That's all I heard about it. And I was - it took me a second and she said Teresa has a baby. So, of course, we went out right away. And they had - they do rounds regularly here, just to check on all the individuals, and Teresa lives with 18 other adult chimpanzees in five acre forested area.

And when they went to do the rounds in the morning, they didn't see her anywhere, but sometimes they're in the middle of the woods and it's hard to find them. So they were kind of checking to see where she was and when they saw her, she was kind of walking out from the middle of the woods carrying an infant chimp in her arms. So I heard about it just right after that.

NORRIS: And then there was that question, though.

BRENT: Oh, yeah.

NORRIS: There was a baby. There had to be another chimp involved in this.

BRENT: Yeah. Certainly, the next thought on everybody's mind was, you know, who was the father of this little baby? So, we've been doing what we can on our end to investigate that. There are seven males in the group, three of them are potentials, I guess, at least what the care staff thinks, individual males who seem to particularly like Teresa. So we're collecting samples and we're going to do paternity testing.

NORRIS: So there are seven males chimps, three prime suspects. Are they - we can call them suspects - are they the three that were particularly sweet on Teresa?

BRENT: Yes. Definitely. The one that I think the care staff and most of the staff here think might be the dad is a fellow name Jimmo. He's a very nice male and certainly does very well with the women. And there's another -

NORRIS: Back up. He does well with the women. What does that mean?

BRENT: All the female chimps seem to like him an awful lot. There's a male named Conan who's 21 years old who's kind of the football player of the group and he's just a very big guy and very muscular. And the youngest one is Magnum and he's 17. He's still a little bit goofy, trying to grow up and be part of the group. And he's the youngest male in the group, so he has a lot to prove to everyone else. So he might be the underdog of it, but you just don't know. There's always going to be surprises.

NORRIS: Do you have any personal hunches? Is there a likeness to one or the other suspect?

BRENT: Well, I thought maybe it could be Magnum because little baby Tracy's arms and legs are very long. And she's a big kid. Both, Teresa's very small and light. And Jimmo is very small. So I thought maybe it would need to be a dad that was kind of large. So that's why I thought maybe Magnum, but time will tell.

NORRIS: Well, Linda Brent, thanks so much for talking to us.

BRENT: Sure, I appreciate it. Thanks.

NORRIS: That was Dr. Linda Brent. She's the director of Chimp Haven. She's also a behavioral primatologist. And she was speaking to us from Keithville, Louisiana.

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