Gynecologist Dr. David Cahill has delivered hundreds of babies by caesarean — but never a gorilla.
About 11 days ago, Cahill and officials at a zoo in Bristol, England, had to make a very tough decision. Pregnant gorilla mom Kera wasn’t doing well, and they had to take drastic — and unusual — methods to save her life and that of her unborn baby.
According to the Guardian, earlier this month, she showed signs of pre-eclampsia, a condition suffered by humans in which the mother’s blood pressure is dangerously high. Cahill said that fetus was also in distress in the womb.
The only way to save both of them was a surgery rarely performed on gorillas: a caesarean.
“The birth of any gorilla is a rare and exciting event; but the birth of a baby gorilla by cesarean 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 in order to give the best possible treatment and to avoid the possibility of losing the baby,” said John Partridge, the zoo’s senior curator of animals.
With two lives on the line, doctors and zoo keepers decided to try the surgery, and before long, the doctor, who usually works at a local maternity hospital bringing less hairy children into the world, said he “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. I have since been back to visit Kera and the baby gorilla, it was wonderful to see them both doing so well.”
Caesarean sections have been performed on gorillas before, but only a handful of times worldwide. This is the first time a gorilla was born by caesarean at this zoo, Discovery added.
The first few days of the little gorilla’s life have been critical ones. At first, she needed mouth-to-mouth to help her breath and was only two pounds, 10 ounces at birth.
A team, consisting of five people, is keeping watch over her day and night, giving her human formula milk every three hours, keeping her warm with a tiny cardigan, and giving her the critical skin-to-skin contact that every newborn needs — gorilla or human.
“She responded well to this and is getting stronger and more alert each day,” said Lynsey Bugg, the curator of mammals at the zoo. She’s now 11-days-old.
“She’s a determined little lady and strong-willed. I think that helped her survive. She’s already trying to haul herself up,” Bugg added.
Meanwhile, Kera, who is a western lowland gorilla, is recovering from the caesarean, but she hasn’t been reunited with her daughter. The trauma of the caesarean and the recovery time means that the two had to be separated.
And there’s a chance, unfortunately, that she won’t be able to learn how to mother her newborn, who hasn’t been named yet. Although officials hope to reunite the little one with her mom, for now, they’re just trying to keep both healthy, Partridge said.
“It is complicated. It’s all to play for at the moment. The most important thing is that the baby is doing well and Kera is on the mend.”
The ultimate goal is for the newborn gorilla to join her group. Mother and child are allowed to see and sniff each other, but she may eventually be raised by a foster mother named Romina.
Meanwhile, as the new mother recuperates from her difficult caesarean, there is a bit of baby-daddy drama going on at Gorilla Island. A silverback named Jock, 32, could be the father — but so could his son, Komale, who is 9. The relationship between the two has grown hostile, and they may need to be separated.
[Photo via YouTube]