A baby gorilla has been born by emergency caesarean section at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
The newborn girl, born 11 days ago on February 12, is baby to mum Kera, of the endangered Western Lowland Gorilla species, who underwent the procedure after displaying signs of the life-threatening condition pre-eclampsia. The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not yet known, but it reduces the blood flow to the placenta, restricting the baby of oxygen and stunting growth.
Following the birth, the baby gorilla required intensive care from vets in order to aid her breathing, but is now said to be doing well. She is being monitored round-the-clock by experienced gorilla keepers, and is being bottle-fed with small amounts of formula milk to encourage growth.
The veterinary team at the zoo performed the operation with the support of Professor David Cahill, a specialist in reproductive medicine and medical education at Bristol University, and gynaecologist at St Michael’s Hospital. Despite having delivered hundreds of babies by caesarean in his career, this was the first time Prof Cahill had delivered a baby gorilla by this procedure.
“Following our assessment, we considered that Kera might have a condition that humans get (pre-eclampsia) and that the only way to treat it was by delivery,” he said. “We also thought that the baby in her uterus was showing signs of being very unwell and in need of delivery. My colleague from St Michael’s hospital, Dr Aamna Ali, and I prepared for this extraordinary caesarean section, and delivered a little girl gorilla.”
“Along with having my own children, this is probably one of the biggest achievements of my life and something I will certainly never forget,” he added. “I have since been back to visit Kera and the baby gorilla; it was wonderful to see them both doing so well.”
Kera was rejected by her mother at Barcelona Zoo in 2004, before being hand-reared at a specialist ape nursery in Stuttgart, Germany. She arrived in Bristol in 2008 and became pregnant last year. Her baby, who is yet to be named, weighed 2lbs 10 at birth; netiher are yet on display at the zoo, and remain separated whilst Kera recovers.
This is the first time a baby gorilla has been born by C-Section in the UK, and is one of only nine times it is thought to have happened worldwide – most recently at San Diego Safari Park, California in 2014. Pregnant gorillas have a gestation period of 255 days, compared to 280 in humans.