Two surprise pregnancies at a research chimpanzee retirement home in Louisiana have occurred despite vasectomies on all the male residents, have prompted caretakers to put the other females on birth control and to administer another round of vasectomies on all the males, according to AP reports.
A worker at Chimp Haven Inc. facility near Shreveport, located in northwest Louisiana discovered the first recent pregnancy on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, when Flora, a 29-year-old chimp, was seen carrying a newborn, a female.
Linda Brent, the sanctuary's director, told AP on Monday that chimpanzees liked to carry things around, and at first the worker had thought Flora was just holding a stuffed animal, until she saw a tiny foot.
The birth had been unexpected because every male chimpanzee is sterilized with a vasectomy before arriving at Chimp Haven where there is already a surplus of captive chimpanzees.
After the new born was discovered, the caretakers administered pregnancy tests to the seven other females in Flora’s group, and last Friday an ultrasound confirmed that an older 49-year-old female, named Ginger, was also pregnant and is expected to deliver in late July or early August.
Brent said that all the females are currently on birth control until the males can be operated on again.
"All the males in the group have been vasectomized. Two of them have been vasectomized twice," Brent told AP.
Conan, a male resident, had been operated on twice after workers discovered that he saw the father of a baby born in January 2007, and another male had gotten a second operation because his records appeared “a little bit questionable,” Brent told the news outlet.
Brent said that it will take at least a month before they can determine Flora’s baby. The baby is still unnamed, and AP reported that the sanctuary will be holding a naming contest through March.
It appears that chimps are able to revive their snipped tube that carries sperm from the testicles, even after veterinarians cut out about 3 inches of each tube and sealed the ends, according to Brent.
"We don't know if that's the case here or if the original vasectomy hadn't been done as well as it could be," she said. The next round of operations will consist of more complicated vasectomies that Brent hopes will ensure that the tubes will not mend back together.
Chimp Haven, which opened in 2005, currently has 132 chimps in 18 groups, and started out with only 31 animals that had been used in medical or scientific research. The sanctuary only has room for about 70 more animals.