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Baby gorilla born after rare Caesarean section

The baby is responding well to ‘skin-to-skin’ contact. Photo: Bristol Zoo

A rare baby gorilla from Bristol Zoo has become the first in the UK to be successfully born after an emergency Caesarean.

The operation was performed by a human gynaecologist after the mother Kera was diagnosed with life-threatening pre-eclampsia. The baby girl - yet to be named - was born weighing just over a kilo.

In the first few days, it was vital she was kept warm and was given small amounts of formula milk. Credit: Bristol Zoo

She needed help from vets before she was able to breathe independently, but is now doing well. The Zoo are hand-rearing the baby round the clock by a small team of experienced gorilla keepers.

The baby gorilla is not yet on show to the public. Credit: Bristol Zoo

It is the first time a gorilla has been born by Caesarean at Bristol Zoo, and one of only a handful of instances of it occurring worldwide.

As it is early days, the baby is not yet on show to the public.

1st
time a baby gorilla has survived after being born by Caesarean section in the UK
The birth of a baby gorilla by C-section is unusual Credit: Bristol Zoo

Unusually, the Caesarean section was carried out by Professor David Cahill, a gynaecologist at St Michael's Hospital.

Prof Cahill and Dr Aamna Ali during the procedure. Credit: Bristol Zoo

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 of Kera (mother), we considered that she might have a condition that humans get (pre-eclampsia) and that the only way to treat it was by delivery.

We also thought that the baby in her uterus was showing signs of being very unwell and needed to be born. My colleague from St Michael's hospital, Dr Aamna Ali, and I prepared for this extraordinary Caesarean section, and delivered a little girl gorilla.

– Prof David Cahill, Gynaecologist

He describes the main differences of performing the surgery on a gorilla, compared to a human.

The professor also described the delivery as one of the biggest achievements of his life.

Watch the baby gorilla being born below:

It is believed that this is the second or third time a baby gorilla has been born by Caesarean section in the UK - but the first time the infant has survived.

Her mother showed symptoms of life-threatening pre-eclampsia. Credit: Bristol Zoo

The professor describes what the experience must've been like from the point of view of the mummy gorilla:

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia isn't known, but is thought to occur when there is a problem with the placenta.

It causes extremely high blood pressure which can only be reversed by giving birth.

The baby weighed 2lbs 10oz. Credit: Bristol Zoo

The mum and baby have been separated while the adult is recovering, and the 11 day old infant is being monitored closely by keepers.

Watch the little baby gorilla being hand-reared: