Asheboro, NC - Already home to one of the largest chimpanzee troops in American zoos, the North Carolina Zoo has added four new members to the collection bringing the total number at the state zoo to 16.

The new chimps, all females, arrived at the N.C. Zoo in November from the Dallas Zoo and went on exhibit for the first time Thursday morning. They are part of a family group that includes an older female, her two daughters and her granddaughter. Gari (age 36) is the senior member of the group. The others include her daughters, Gerre (age 13), and Gigi (age 1) along with granddaughter Genie (also age 1).

According to Jennifer Ireland, keeper supervisor for the N.C. Zoo's chimpanzee exhibit, the four females were not transferred to Asheboro for breeding reasons, but to help out the Dallas Zoo which was having problems integrating them into its chimp troop. The N.C. Zoo also needed to acquire young females due to its aging female population, Ireland added.

The transfers were made at the recommendation of the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. The SSPs are coordinated programs to manage and breed captive species in order to maintain viable populations in U.S. zoos.

Following the N.C. Zoo's mandatory quarantine period for new animals, the four females were introduced to three current troop members--male Kendall (age 13), female Tammy (age 42) and female Ebi (age 1). This gives the N.C. Zoo two chimp troops with seven in the new group and nine in the other, Ireland said.

"We plan to work to move individuals between the two groups as this better replicates the natural social system of wild chimps," Ireland explained. "There are some members of our troop that are incompatible and that's the reason we have two groups. But this arrangement will provide more complex and natural social experiences for all the chimps."

N.C. Zoo visitors will not see all 16 chimps at once, Ireland said, but on different days may see different group compositions. Beginning this week the two groups will be alternated on exhibit regularly as weather and temperatures allow, she added.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.