Rita was born in captivity in an Amsterdam zoo on 15 December 1960. When she was a little over four years of age, she was brought to the Delhi zoo. From that day (27 February 1964) to today, 57-year-old Rita has been a resident of India and is all set to enter the Limca book of records as the oldest Chimpanzee in the country.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Abhijit Bhawal, the veterinarian of the Delhi zoo said, “Soon after celebrating her birthday, we decided to apply to the Limca Book of Records. A team of representatives had come to meet Rita. Another team of officials from the Limca Books of Records is expected this month for the final check.”
Her birthday celebrations were a grand affair, with school children visiting the zoo to “wish her”, as reported by the BBC.
The chimpanzee herself never comes out of her enclosure, and the school students had to watch her through cameras affixed in her cage.
Rita’s journey in India has been somewhat of an adventure. She was brought here from Amsterdam in exchange for domestic cranes. When she arrived in Delhi, she was paired with a male chimpanzee named Max—who was brought here from the London zoo.
The duo had four children, but unfortunately, none survived. Following this, Rita was transferred to the Punjab zoo for about 20 years for a breeding programme.
This was between 1985 to 2006 and then she was brought back to Delhi. She has been living in the capital since.
The average lifespan of a chimpanzee in the wild is between 40-50 years. In captivity, however, it can extend a bit, thanks to a controlled environment, less threat from predators and assured access to food, water and mates.
The Delhi zoo is reportedly the first zoo in India to have made it to the Limca Book of Records, all thanks to Rita. Renu Singh, the director of the zoo (or National Zoological Park), told HT, “She is not just the oldest member of the zoo, but also the oldest chimpanzee in India and probably the oldest in Asia.”
The oldest chimpanzee in the world, however, was Little Mama in the USA. She passed away in November 2017, at the age of 79 years in a safari park.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)