Loxahatchee, Florida – Little Mama, the oldest living chimpanzee on record (she was in her late 70’s) passed away today at Lion Country Safari. She was surrounded by her family group of 8 other chimps as well as her dedicated care staff. Over the past few weeks, her health deteriorated and veterinary staff believe she died of kidney failure. A necropsy (animal autopsy) will provide the definitive cause.
Little Mama, a staff favorite, has been at Lion Country Safari since 1967. Prior to coming to Lion Country Safari it is believed that she was a pet and reportedly performed in the Ice Capades. World-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall first visited Little Mama in 1972 and estimated her age at that time. Lifespan for chimpanzees in the wild is 40 to 50 years and in captivity it is 50 to 60 years.
“She held a special place in the heart of anyone who ever had the privilege to meet her. In all ways, Mama was special. It soothes me to think that she will be with us forever, in our hearts and memories. I’ll never forget the way she looked at her caretakers: with such joy and trust—and demand, if you had a particular treat that she wanted. There was nowhere else on this earth that she could have possibly been more loved or cared for than here at Lion Country Safari,” said Tina Cloutier Barbour, Primate Curator at Lion Country Safari.
Little Mama may have been the oldest living chimpanzee in captivity, but she didn’t look her age. She was petite in stature, snuggled under blankets on cool mornings, always carried around a stuffed animal and was an amazing ambassador for her species. Staff celebrated her birthday each February 14th and it was the biggest birthday celebration out of any of the park’s 1,098 animals.