Sunday, 21 September 2014

A special birthday


"Thelma"
©Kaye Parmenter for Monkeyworld

Thelma is an infant primate at Monkeyworld in Dorset.  She is adored by the very many who have followed her story from birth.  I feel privileged to have been asked to paint her.

This is a special week for Thelma as it is her first birthday.  Here is her story so far relayed to me by Monkeyworld:

"Thelma was born against the odds to a mum who had no experience in caring for a baby.  Cherri, the mum,  had experienced two previous accidental pregnancies.  Monkeyworld had to hand rear both babies as she abandoned them and made it clear that she didn’t want either of them.

When Cherri’s birth control failed again, we were horrified and prepared ourselves to be hang rearing again.  The day came and a tuft of white fluff was spotted one morning, Cherri was holding on to the baby and we watched and waited.  It was an incredibly tense time, lots of very young and immature male chimps in the group reacting to something new and strange to them.  It was terrifying but we made a decision that we would not interfere, we would give Cherri the chance to have another go.

Just as things seemed to calm down within the group, someone gasped, Cherri changed position and we noticed not one, but two babies.   Twin births in chimpanzees are incredibly rare.   In fact, I only know of two sets of surviving twins in the world.   It was at this point that we all acknowledged the truth, Cherri had failed to look after two previous infants and, in light of her history, the odds were stacked against her.  As it was highly unlikely that she would bring up one baby, the chances that she would rear two babies was just unthinkable.

We named them Thelma and Louise, our birth control outlaws.   We monitored them closely, it was quite a stressful time, but it was going ok.  A few days later we lost Louise, this was awful but meant that Cherri may have a chance to nuture Thelma.   Days turned into months and now Thelma is about to turn one, Cherri has been the most amazing mum, the whole group dote on Thelma and she has had a calming effect on what was a very volatile group, she really is a miracle."

The painting will soon be delivered to Monkeyworld to celebrate Thelma's first birthday and hopefully raise valuable funds for the Jim Cronin memorial fund.  You can follow news and photos of primates at Monkeyworld on their Facebook page: