World's RAREST chimpanzee is born at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo has welcomed its newest arrival – a western chimpanzee baby.

In a boost for conservation efforts, he was born on December 9 after an eight-month pregnancy.

Andrew Lenihan, team manager at the attraction, said: 'We're incredibly proud to see a precious new baby in the chimpanzee troop. 

'Mum ZeeZee and her new arrival instantly bonded and she's doing a great job of cradling him closely and caring for him.'

Great ape experts say the new arrival is in good health and spent his first few weeks bonding with his mother and the rest of the zoo's 22 western chimps.

Chimpanzees are born with a white tuft of hair on their rear and have it until puberty to signal others in the troop to be gentle with them.

'A birth always creates a lot of excitement in the group and raising a youngster soon becomes a real extended family affair,' Mr Lenihan said.

'You'll often see the new baby being passed between other females who want to lend a helping hand and give ZeeZee some well-deserved rest, and that's exactly what her daughter, Stevie, is doing with her new brother.

'It looks as though she's taken a real shine to him, which is great to see.'

The new chimp has not yet been named but it is a long-standing tradition among conservationists to name newborns after a music icon to help boost the species' profile.

'It's been a tradition of ours for decades now to name baby chimpanzees after famous rock and pop stars in a bid to help raise some urgent attention for this charismatic species,' Mr Lenihan said.

'We've previously welcomed Dylan (Bob), Alice (Cooper) and Annie (Lennox) – so watch this space.'

Western chimpanzees are the first chimpanzee subspecies to join the list of critically endangered apes from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

There are as few as 18,000 western chimpanzees left in Africa, it is estimated.

Chester Zoo hopes the latest birth will help ensure the species' long-term survival.

Mr Lenihan said: 'He may not know it but ZeeZee's new baby is a small but vital boost to the global population of western chimpanzees at a time when it's most needed for this critically endangered species.'

The fall in western chimp numbers has been attributed to manmade causes – hunting for illegal bush meat, human-spread diseases and extensive habitat loss and destruction across western Africa.

Mike Jordan, the zoo's animal and plant director, said: 'In the last 25 years alone the world has lost 80 per cent of its western chimpanzee population, so the arrival of a healthy baby here at Chester offers us real hope that we can help turn things around for this species.'

Western chimpanzees are extinct in countries like Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.

However, small populations are found in the likes of Senegal and Ghana.

Chester Zoo is a world-leading conservation and education charity.

It has been actively involved in the conservation of some of the world's rarest chimpanzees in Africa, such as supporting efforts to protect the last stronghold of the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee in Gashaka Gumti National park in Nigeria, for over 20 years.

The zoo's 128-acre site in Chester is home to more than 27,000 animals and 500 species.