Philadelphia Zoo was happy to welcome a new addition to its western lowland gorilla troop on June 2.
Kira, the zoo's 17-year-old female, gave birth on Friday to a healthy male baby gorilla. The newborn, which is yet to be named, weighs exactly 5 pounds.
But the birth was not uneventful, announced the zoo staff. The baby gorilla was born after a difficult 24-hour labor, which required the intervention of both veterinarians and professionals in the human medical field.
"It was an anxious and dramatic day at the Zoo, but in the end a tremendously rewarding one," said Dr. Andy Baker, Philadelphia Zoo's chief operating officer, in a news release.
First Assisted Vaginal Delivery Of A Baby Gorilla In 17 Years
According to Philadelphia Zoo, Kira went into labor on Thursday, but the labor didn't progress as expected.
Under normal circumstances, gorilla labor is quick and the mother doesn't appear tired or distressed, notes the zoo. Yet Kira showed signs of fatigue and of a worsening state of health.
Because she still hadn't delivered her baby by Friday morning, the zoo staff enlisted the help of a team of veterinarians and regular doctors to perform an emergency delivery.
The team included an ob-gyn, surgeons, anesthesiologists and other specialists from hospitals affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University, as well as University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
It's not unusual for the zoo to call on the skills of such consultants, Baker reports. Last year, a similar team was assembled to assist another gorilla birth at the zoo, but their intervention was ultimately not needed.
In Kira's case, however, the medical team had to place her under anesthesia and perform an assisted vaginal delivery.
The procedure lasted an hour and a half, and required many of the same equipment and techniques used for human deliveries — including forceps and an episiotomy, a procedure to enlarge the birth opening.
The team also provided initial neonatal care for the new baby through the night, until Kira was fully recovered and reunited with her offspring the next morning.
Although there have been several successful cesarean section deliveries for gorillas in the last few years, assisted vaginal delivery is quite rare, mentioned the zoo staff, who noted the most recent case was reported in 2000.
Western Lowland Gorillas
The new baby gorilla now lives at PECO Primate Reserve, together with his parents and extended family.
This is Kira's first baby and the third offspring for 32-year-old Motuba, who also fathered baby Amani, born last August at the zoo to mother Honi.
Although all is well at the Philadelphia Zoo, western lowland gorillas worldwide aren't as fortunate. The species, indigenous to African forests, is listed as Critically Endangered in their natural habitat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Western lowland gorillas made it on the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species after the discovery that their population has been decimated by commercial bushmeat trade and the Ebola virus.
Their numbers have declined by more than 60 percent over the past 25 years. Moreover, about one-third of the total population living in protected areas was killed by the Ebola virus over the last 15 years.