Chimpanzees get pregnant despite vasectomies
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - February 28, 2012 (WPVI) -- After two unexpected pregnancies at a sanctuary for retired research chimpanzees, other females have been put on birth control and the males are getting another round of vasectomies.
The first recent pregnancy at the Chimp Haven Inc. facility near Shreveport in northwest Louisiana was discovered on Valentine's Day when a worker noticed Flora, a 29-year-old chimp, was carrying a newborn.
Chimpanzees like to carry things around, and the worker thought at first that Flora was holding a stuffed animal. Then she saw a tiny foot, the sanctuary's director, Linda Brent, said Monday.
The birth was definitely a surprise. Every male gets a vasectomy before being sent to Chimp Haven because there's a surplus of captive chimpanzees.
"All the males in the group have been vasectomized. Two of them have been vasectomized twice," Brent said.
One of those snipped twice was Conan after he was identified as the father of a baby born in January 2007. Another chimpanzee got the operation a second time because records seemed "a little bit questionable," Brent said.
Following the birth this month, the other seven females in Flora's group were given pregnancy tests. An ultrasound Friday confirmed 49-year-old Ginger was pregnant and due in late July or early August, Brent said.
The females are now on birth control until the males can be operated on again, Brent said.
Chimps seem able to grow back the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, even though veterinary surgeons cut out about 3 inches of each tube and close the ends, she said.
"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.
She said the next round of vasectomies will use a more complex procedure, developed at another sanctuary, in hopes the tubes can't grow back together.
It will take at least a month to determine who fathered Flora's baby, a female.
The baby hasn't been named. The sanctuary is holding a naming contest through March.
Chimp Haven opened in 2005 with 31 animals formerly used in medical or scientific research. It now has 132 chimps in 18 groups, and room for nearly 70 more animals.
louisiana, new orleans, wildlife preservation, animals
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