„Zahira the beauty”

The Janos Xantus Zoo in Győr has always been famous for its chimpanzees. What’s more! The story of “Pola Zaire” the orphan has reached all parts of the world. In 2015 Jane Goodall, the world-famous ethologist visited the chimpanzee and symbolically adopted it as well. Due to persistent human care, this chimpanzee is now part of our team and now she is a happy mummy!

On 26th December in the afternoon, our zoo received the most beautiful Christmas present in form of a nice chimpanzee baby. When our caregivers felt Pola’s time has come to give birth to its offspring, they provided her with a separate “delivery room”. Pola instinctly knew what she had to do. She instantly loved her baby girl, who was named “Zahira”. Pola has been the most marvellous mother of Zahira, which is quite interesting, as Pola had no chance to learn this behaviour, because her mother had died before she reached this age.

After the birth, mother and daughter could spend the night together, separated from others, later in the morning the happy father was allowed to welcome the new arrival. Afterwards, all the others from the chimpanzee team visited Zahira, but the most excited ones were Malipo and Blanca, the chimp kids, who could not guess at first what Pola was holding in her arms.

Zahira still spends most of her days in the caring arms of her mom. But she started to discover her own voice and the world around her by turning and looking around. True to its name, she is a beauty, just like her mom. While Pola is breastfeeding her, she happily squelches, and then contentedly hums.

In case of chimpanzees, the mother-kid relation is the most important family-relation. After a pregnancy of 225 days one offspring is born. In the next five months the chimpanzee kid is holding on to its mother then the mother carries it on her back. Later on kids make their first steps. The evolution of chimpanzees, as you can see, is very similar to that of humans.

Motherhood changed Pola, she is more mature and more thoughtful. That old prank is still in her eyes, but now she is occupied by her daughter. She is the most protective mother in the whole group.

The story of Pola’s parents is also very interesting. Paula (Pola’s mother) was born in the wild in Central Africa. She was 10 when she meet humans, and when she was 20, she was transported to Veszprém, Hungary from Czechoslovakia. That is where she met Pola’s father, “Misi”, but he was later relocated to Debrecen and Paula came to Győr.

In 2002 they were reunited in our zoo in Győr, after 23 years of separation. They recognized each other at once, although the caregivers were afraid to let them into one kennel at first, in case they wanted to fight. On the contrary, they hugged each other warmly at first sight.

Paula was very old then, caregivers did not really wanted her to have another kid. There was a great surprise on 25th October 2003, when she gave birth to a tiny, but healthy baby chimpanzee. In human terms, she was about 90 years old then. The main worry was that Paula was too old (48 years!) to provide the 3-4 years of constant presence its offspring Pola needed. She died very soon, little Pola could enjoy its mother’s presence only for 6 months, and then our zoo’s pedagogue, Agnes Kapa became the step-mother of Pola, who even moved in with Agnes’s family. Pola soon received her own clothes, bed and toys. She spent her first 3 years amongst humans, in a loving family. She learned to tie her shoes, put on her clothes, and she loved playing around. When she reached the age of 3 it seemed right to integrate her into the chimpanzee family. The integration was not smooth, Pola did not speak the language of apes and there were misunderstandings between her and the rest of the group. But after a while she managed to fit in and act like a chimpanzee. She is much more intelligent than the rest of the group. She taught the others the well-known clapping begging.

Pola and Zahira spend most of their time with the group in our chimpanzee house. If you come to visit us, you can see the bright eyes of Zahira looking around from the protective arms of her loving mum, Pola.