After 24 hours of contractions 17-year-old Kira was not coping and needed help as her labour wasn’t progressing normally.
With experts from both the veterinary and human medical fields, included an obstetrician-gynecologists, surgeons, anesthetists and others, from University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Hospital and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, they helped Kira.
After an hour and a half Kira delivered a healthy 5lb baby boy, with the team using the same tools and techniques they would for human deliveries, including forceps and episiotomy.
While there have been several successful C-section deliveries for gorillas over the past few years, the most recent case of an assisted vaginal delivery the zoo is aware of occurred in 2000.
Because mom Kira was recovering from anesthesia, vet staff provided the newborn with initial neonatal care, holding and feeding him through the night.
By the next morning, Kira was fully recovered and was quickly reunited with her new baby, and has been continuously cradling and nursing him since.
Dr Andy Baker, Philadelphia Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer said: “We are very excited to welcome Kira’s new baby.
“This important birth is an opportunity to engage the world in caring about the future of gorillas in the wild.
“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.
“We often take advantage of the expertise in Philadelphia to optimize health care for our animals, and working with valued partners, 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.”
This is Kira’s first child, although third for 32-year old dad Motuba. Her baby is yet to be named.
And already the new mum is taking to motherhood well.
Dr Baker said: “She was a great older sister to younger siblings and has been very attentive while our other female gorilla Honi has raised baby Amani.
“Everybody is excited about these two future playmates.”
The newborn currently lives in PECO Primate Reserve with Kira, dad Motuba and other troop mates Honi and her baby Amani.
The Zoo plans to work again with the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to choose a name for the infant.