Our chimpanzee history began in 1930 with the arrival of Tim, a cocky young male chimpanzee about six or seven years of age. In 1932, a four- or five-year-old female named Katie arrived to keep him company. Their first baby, George, was born in 1938. At his birth, George and his mother were separated from Tim because we wished to take no chance that Tim might hurt his son. We found, however, that Tim took a paternal interest, poking his finger through the dividing mesh partition to touch him. Katie missed Tim and often sat close to him with only the partition between them. And so, we soon reunited the little family. Tim participated in George’s care and upbringing. This was a somewhat unusual procedure for zoos at the time, but we found that it worked well for our chimpanzees.
We continued to exhibit chimpanzees until 1976, when our focus shifted to other primate species. The San Diego Zoo does not have chimpanzees in our collection at this time.
Because they are so smart, chimps have been involved in many scientific studies, and unfortunately some people keep them as pets. Taking them from the wild has caused a decline in their populations. People also hunt chimps for food (bushmeat) or to protect their crops from being eaten by hungry chimps. These conditions, plus loss of habitat, have resulted in the chimpanzee being an endangered animal.