In some heart-warming news, a baby Western lowland gorilla has been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens after a rare emergency caesarean procedure.

The 11 day old baby girl was delivered after the mother, Kera, showed symptoms of potentially life-threatening pre-eclampsia. The baby, yet to be named, was born weighing just over a kilo (2lbs 10oz).

UK Female gorilla born at Bristol Zoo 12022016 (4)

She needed help from vets before she was able to breathe independently, but is now doing well, being hand-reared round the clock by a small team of experienced gorilla keepers. Kera is recovering and is being monitored closely by keepers and the Zoo’s in-house veterinary team.

It’s a first at Bristol Zoo – where a gorilla has been born by caesarean and one of only a handful of instances of it occurring worldwide.

Senior curator of animals, John Partridge, says, “The birth of any gorilla is a rare and exciting event; but the birth of a baby gorilla by caesarean section is even more unusual. It wasn’t a decision that we took lightly – Kera was becoming quite poorly and we needed to act fast to give the best possible treatment to mother and baby, and to avoid the possibility of losing the baby.”

After being assessed by the in-house vets, expert treatment was provided by Prof David Cahill, a professor in reproductive medicine and medical education at Bristol University and gynaecologist in St Michael’s Hospital.

Professor David Cahill and team. Photo: Nicolette Hayward

Professor David Cahill and team. Photo: Nicolette Hayward

Prof Cahill has delivered hundreds of babies by caesarean, but a baby gorilla by C-section was a first. He says, “Kera was in late pregnancy and showed some signs of being unwell. Following our assessment, we considered that Kera might have a condition that humans get (pre-eclampsia) and that the baby in her uterus was showing signs of being very unwell. We thought the only way to treat it was by delivery. My colleague from St Michael’s hospital, Dr Aamna Ali, and I prepared for this extraordinary C-section, and delivered a little girl gorilla. I have since been back to visit Kera and the baby gorilla, it was wonderful to see them both doing so well.”

Bristol Zoo staff vet, Rowena Killick, assisted with the procedure and the immediate treatment of the baby, including performing emergency resuscitation. She said: “This was a very challenging operation. The baby needed some intensive care immediately after birth, but we are cautiously optimistic and will be keeping a very close eye on both her and Kera.”

Curator of mammals, Lynsey Bugg, is one of a small team of keepers providing round the clock care for the infant. She said: “The first few days were critical for the baby, it was vital that she was kept warm and began taking small amounts of formula milk. We started ‘skin-to-skin’ contact – a process used with human newborn babies – and she responded well to this and is getting stronger and more alert each day.”

We hope the baby thrives with the care.

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