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September 04, 2020

Utamu: Path to Motherhood

Utamu was born on December 20, 2001, in Florida at the Miami Metrozoo (now called Zoo Miami). She first arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo as a juvenile chimpanzee in early 2007 along with her mother Rosebud.

She has benefited greatly from Rosebud’s social personality and popularity with the other chimpanzees, as they both easily integrated in the group. Rosebud and Utamu are often found in the middle of any social interaction such as playing or grooming. Even though Utamu is older now, she continues to share a strong bond with her mother Rosebud and they support each other within the group. Growing up with her mother always watching out for her and often being the center of social interactions, she is a very confident, social and respected chimpanzee within the group.

Utamu has a very distinctive ‘voice’. Her laugh and food vocalizations can easily be picked out by keepers from the rest of the chimpanzees. Since she is so well liked, she is good at getting what she wants, especially food. Even when she was little, she could usually get someone such as Beauty, a female in her late 40s, and Jimiyu , a 28-year-old male, to share food by food peering, which is when a chimpanzee gets really close (within inches) of another chimp who is eating something delicious and just stares. This probably wouldn’t work as well for us humans as it does for Utamu, though!

When not relaxing or eating, Utamu is often seen playing with her two close pals, 18-year-old Tammy and 22-year-old Bakhari, two female chimpanzees. These three are close in age and all enjoy a good play-chase or wrestling session complete with tickling. As she has progressed in her pregnancy, Utamu is usually more inclined to relax with her mother and Beauty than engage in rambunctious play, but her friends can often still get her to engage in more laid-back tickle sessions.

Utamu’s favorite locations are hanging out high on the habitat hammocks or relaxing in the viewing shelter windows under the air vents with the other female chimps. First thing in the morning, you can usually spot her grooming and foraging with the rest of the chimpanzee group on the large rock overhang in the center of their habitat.

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