Philadelphia Zoo Announces Successful Emergency Gorilla Birth

Kira, a first-time mother, gave birth to a healthy 5-pound male gorilla at the zoo on June 2.

After 24 painstaking hours, Kira was still in labor at the Philadelphia Zoo. Staff had noticed that the 17-pound Western lowland gorilla was in the beginning stages of the birthing process on June 1, but her baby still had not come. With the first-time mother showing signs of fatigue, a team of veterinarians and medical doctors was brought in to assist in the emergency birth.

Using tools and procedures similar to those applied to standard human births, the doctors were able to successfully deliver Kira’s first-born on June 2 after about an hour and a half, the zoo announced on Tuesday. The baby was healthy and weighed 5 pounds at birth. Officials say it was the first assisted vaginal delivery for a gorilla that the zoo is aware of since 2000.

“We are very excited to welcome Kira’s new baby,” Dr. Andy Baker, Philadelphia Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement. “This important birth is an opportunity to engage our visitors in caring about the future of gorillas in the wild.”

Gorilla births are typically quick and the mother generally does not exhibit signs of distress or show symptoms of feeling poorly. Because Kira was administered anesthesia during labor, zoo staff provided initial neonatal care to her newborn son – who has yet to be named. Since recovering, mother and son have been inseparable according to zoo officials.

“Our veterinary team had an advance plan in place that had us prepared for scenarios like this – and in this case that plan, and the skill of our keeper team, enabled a safe delivery for both Kira and her baby,” Baker said. “We often take advantage of the expertise in Philadelphia to optimize health care for our animals, and working with valued partners such as Penn Medicine, Penn Vet, and Jefferson, we were able to intervene and save both lives. It was an anxious and dramatic day at the Zoo, but in the end a tremendously rewarding one.”

The baby gorilla is now living comfortably with his mom and father, 32-year-old Motuba, in the zoo’s PECO Primate Reserve. How about that age difference among his parents? The zoo will work with the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to choose a name for the infant.

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