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Dispute sends Oklahoma City Zoo chimp into moat again

Mwami, the alpha male chimp at the Oklahoma City Zoo, spent about half an hour in the moat surrounding his habitat after a fight among the chimp troop.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: March 26, 2011

A male chimpanzee at the Oklahoma City Zoo jumped over an electric fence and into the dry moat surrounding his habitat Friday afternoon.

Zoo officials issued a code red about 11:20 a.m. Friday, zoo spokeswoman Tara Henson said. A code red is issued when a dangerous animal is out or has the potential to be out of its exhibit.

Some zoo visitors were escorted indoors until officials determined Mwami could not escape the moat and therefore was not a threat, Henson said.

Mwami was allowed to use a cargo net to climb back into the chimp habitat.

The entire incident lasted about half an hour, she said.

Mwami went into the moat four other times between Aug. 30 and Oct. 8. He has never had the ability to escape, Henson said.

Each incident was preceded by fighting in the chimp troop.

Zookeepers have been monitoring the chimp troop even more closely since Mwami began going into the moat, said Jennifer Davis, supervisor of the zoo's Great EscApe. Officials have been rearranging the chimps into smaller groups to observe their interactions.

Mwami is the dominant male in the group, but breeding issues have sparked disagreements within the strict social hierarchy, Davis said.

Mwami is recommended to breed with two females in the troop: sisters Abby and Kito.

He prefers Kito, the younger of the sisters, Davis said. This angers dominant female Abby, who then lashes out at Mwami and sometimes enlists the help of other chimps.

Davis said she thinks Abby might be put on birth control to tame her anger and dull her desire to breed with Mwami.

The good news, Davis said, is that chimps are quick to forgive. The animals will reconcile and even hug after fights.

“They're quick to make up,” she said. “It's incredible to see.”


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