The Bristol Zoo is celebrating the arrival of a new member to its gorilla community — a 2lb 10z baby girl who is UK's first ape to be successfully delivered by caesarean on 12 February. An emergency C-section was carried out on the mother, an endangered Western lowland gorilla named Kera, who was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.
When Kera went into labour, zoo vets found that the baby had become unresponsive and NHS was immediately contacted for help. Reproductive medicine expert Professor David Cahill, who works as a gynaecologist at Bristol's St Michael's Hospital, was called in along with his colleague Dr Aamna Ali, to perform the surgery with help from Bristol Zoo staff vet Rowena Killic.
The baby gorilla was taken out from the womb of her mother and given emergency resuscitation. Kera is recovering well, while the baby is being hand-reared and given round-the-clock care by the zoo's gorilla experts.
Talking about the experience, Cahill said, "Along with having my own children, this is probably one of the biggest achievements of my life and something I will certainly never forget.
"I have since been back to visit Kera and the baby gorilla, it was wonderful to see them both doing so well."
He went on to talk about the surgery, saying, "Having been involved with the care of these gorillas over the years, with some trepidation and excitement, we were invited to the zoo to assess the well-being of Kera, because she was in late pregnancy and showed some signs of being unwell.
"Following our assessment, we considered that Kera 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 in need of delivery. My colleague from St Michael's hospital, Dr Aamna Ali, and I prepared for this extraordinary caesarean section, and delivered a little girl gorilla."
This is the first successful gorilla caesarean undertaken in the UK. There have been previous instances when the operation was conducted but the babies did not survive.
John Partridge, senior curator of animals at Bristol Zoo said, "The birth of any gorilla is a rare and exciting event but the birth of a baby gorilla by caesarean section is even more unusual.
"It wasn't a decision that we took lightly — Kera was becoming quite poorly and we needed to act fast in order to give the best possible treatment to mother and baby, and to avoid the possibility of losing the baby."
The new-born is yet to be named and neither mother nor baby are on show to zoo visitors as of yet.