Have you ever had to perform a Cesarean section on an animal? What about on a gorilla? The veterinary staff at Bristol Zoo Gardens in the U.K. had to on Feb. 12.
Kera, a western lowland gorilla, was showing “symptoms of potentially life-threatening pre-eclampsia,” according to the Bristol Zoo in Bristol, England. Veterinary staff assessed Kera, and the decision to perform a C-section was made. It was the first time a gorilla had been born by the procedure at this zoo. Dr. David Cahill, St. Michael’s Hospital gynecologist and reproductive medicine and medical education professor at Bristol University, was called in.
“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,” Cahill told Bristol Zoo. “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 Cesarean section, and delivered a little girl gorilla.”
Rowena Killick, RCVS Diplomate in zoological medicine and Bristol Zoo staff veterinarian, assisted with the C-section, and treated the baby gorilla immediately after she was born, which included emergency resuscitation. “This was a very challenging operation and we are immensely grateful for the expert help we received which meant we were able to give care at the very highest level. The baby needed some intensive care immediately after birth and it is still very early days, but we are cautiously optimistic and will be keeping a very close eye on both her and Kera,” Killick said in a statement.
The baby gorilla, which has not yet been named, weighs just over 1 kilogram and is receiving round-the-clock veterinary care. One of the staff members providing the care, Lynsey Bugg, said, “The first few days were critical for the baby, it was vital that she was kept warm and began taking small amounts of formula milk. We started ‘skin-to-skin’ contact — a process used with human newborn babies — and she responded well to this and is getting stronger and more alert each day.”