The first chimpanzee baby born at the LA Zoo in 13 years was mauled to death Tuesday by an adult chimp in front of a crowd of visitors, including children, zoo officials said.
The unnamed infant was born March 6 to Gracie, who is being allowed to keep the infant overnight to grieve, zoo officials said.
Baby Chimp Mauling: Updated story, video
When the adult male chimp began attacking the infant, zoo staff were unable to remove her from the exhibit because policy forbids them from entering the same space as the animals, which are strong and potentially dangerous.
"I felt bad for the people that saw that happen today. There were young children there that were so sad, you know, it's just really heartbreaking," said Jennie Becker, the zoo's director of mammals.
Zoo staff did not witness the killing, but said the attack went down in front of a crowd of visitors.
"I did talk to a couple of visitors as I was coming up here, tried to help them process what they had seen,” said John Lewis, director. "We also had some other visitors to help us get a better understanding."
The zoo in Griffith Park houses one of the nation’s largest troops of chimpanzees – 15 in all – in a North American zoo, officials said. The baby was introduced to the public on May 18, when zoo officials said Gracie had proved to be a "fantastic mother" who had been very gentle with her offspring. The baby was the zoo's first chimpanzee born on site in 13 years.
Tuesday’s violence against the infant, who was gradually introduced to the coed group, was unexpected for the staffers that make up the zoo’s Great Ape Team.
"We have made grief counseling available to them," said Denis Verret, deputy director. "They are a support group. They work with these animals every day."