Difficult birth, happy ending for Philadelphia Zoo gorillas

The Philadelphia Zoo has a new member.

Kira, a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla, delivered a healthy 5-pound baby boy on Friday, the Zoo announced Tuesday.

This was the first baby for Kira and the third for the father Motuba, a 32-year-old gorilla who also fathered Amani, who was born in August.

“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 the world in caring about the future of gorillas in the wild.”

The species is considered critically endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The gorilla’s delivery was not without problems.

After 24 hours of labor, Kira had not progressed and was beginning to tire and show signs she was feeling worse. The Zoo brought a team of veterinarians and regular doctors to perform an emergency delivery using procedures and equipment similar to those used in human deliveries, including forceps and episiotomy, the zoo reported.

“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,” said Baker. The zoo often calls on the skills of doctors from Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Hospital, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, he said.

Zoo keepers cared for the newborn for about 24 hours until Kira, who was placed under anesthesia for the delivery, recovered. She has been cradling and nursing him ever since, the zoo noted.

The yet unnamed baby and his mother can be seen with the rest of the gorilla troop in the zoo’s PECO Primate Reserve.

“Though Kira is a first-time mom, we’re not surprised she’s acting like an expert already. She was a great older sister to younger siblings and has been very attentive while our other female gorilla Honi has raised baby Amani,” Baker said. “Everybody is excited about these two future playmates.”

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