Baby chimp to be paired with surrogate at Florida zoo

A two-month-old chimpanzee in need of a mother has moved to a central Florida zoo to be paired with a surrogate to raise her.

"It's a pretty touch decision to do this," admitted Carey Ricciardone of the Maryland Zoo where the baby chimp, Keeva, was born.

She was the first child of a 27-year-old longtime member of the zoo's chimp troop.

While Keeva appeared healthy at 2.6 pounds, her mother was not caring for her properly, according to zoo officials, who began searching for a surrogate.

"In the bigger picture, it's really important for her to be raised and have a normal life within a chimp troop," said Claire Macnamara of theMaryland Zoo. "I don't think anyone would be sad if we had to hand-rear her for the rest of her life, but it's really what's best for her."

They found Abby, a 32-year-old chimp at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, who previously helped to raise two other orphaned chimps from infancy to adolescence.

Keeva arrived at the Tampa zoo in late March and has been growing stronger under human care, kept behind protective mesh that allows its four adult chimps to see, hear and smell her.

Abby is among those watching with great interest as Keeva is learning to hold up her head, make facial expressions and vocalize, the zoo said.

Zoo officials plan to introduce Keeva to her surrogate mother when she is about 4 to 6 months old.

Infant chimps are dependent on their mothers for at least five years, zoo officials said in the statement. The endangered species is considered the closest living genetic relatives to humans.