The newest addition to the gorilla family at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park has had a difficult start to life. Born by emergency Cesarean Section on March 12, and weighing only 4.6 pounds, the tiny newborn female gorilla was treated for a collapsed lung on March 13. The baby gorilla, who is yet unnamed, was experiencing respiratory distress, elevated heart rate, and rapid breathing. A chest x-ray showed the baby was suffering from a collapsed lung. A team of veterinarians and animal care specialists came together to perform the surgery. A neonatal specialist and anesthesiologist from the University of California, San Diego Health System, also joined in caring for the baby gorilla throughout the procedure. A mucus plug, believed to have aspirated during the baby's delivery, was suctioned from her right lung. The specialists then re-inflated her lung. The baby gorilla did well through the surgery.
As if her entry into the world were not difficult enough, the newborn was then found to have pneumonia, which was believed to have happened around the time of birth. "We've been working with the baby all weekend, and after having several days of experience treating her, it's pretty obvious that we've been dealing with pneumonia," said Nadine Lamberski, associate director of veterinary services at the park. "It probably occurred at about the time of birth." The following video shows the baby gorilla being cared for while ill with pneumonia.
The baby gorilla has recovered from her surgery and intense illness, and has recently been introduced to her mother. The 18 year old gorilla, Imani, is considered old for a first-time mother. Zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were concerned that Imani would not have the proper maternal instincts to care for the baby gorilla. According to the Los Angeles Times, that concern is now receding. "Since the physical introduction occurred, Imani has been extremely attached, holding and constantly carrying her infant," zookeepers said.
To introduce the mother and child, the baby gorilla was placed on a pile of hay and left alone, allowing Imani to become acquainted with her child on her own terms. After sniffing the baby, the gorilla mother gathered her tiny form close, and has cared for her very well. Within three hours, the baby was nursing. Watch the progression below as the new mother and child meet one another.
Zookeepers at the park will monitor the infant to be sure she is receiving adequate nutrition. Despite their challenging start and late meeting, the mother gorilla and her new baby have bonded, and are doing very well together. The baby gorilla has overcome her illness, and continues to improve.
[Image via ABC 10 News]