Gorilla baby born at Bristol Zoo in 'rare' C-section

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Media captionA baby western lowland gorilla has been born at Bristol Zoo after a very rare emergency caesarean.

A baby gorilla is "doing well" after being delivered by Caesarean section in a rare operation at Bristol Zoo.

The Western lowland gorilla was born early, weighing 2lbs 10oz, after her mother showed signs of the potentially dangerous condition pre-eclampsia.

She needed help to breathe on her own, but staff are now "cautiously optimistic" for mother and baby.

There have only been a few gorilla C-sections in the world - most recently at San Diego Safari Park in 2014.

It is thought to be the first successful gorilla C-section in the UK.

Image copyright Bristol Zoo
Image caption The baby gorilla is said to be doing well

The 11-day old Western lowland gorilla - a critically endangered species - was delivered by gynaecologist Professor David Cahill who has delivered hundreds of human babies by C-section, but never a gorilla.

"Along with having my own children, this is probably one of the biggest achievements of my life and something I will certainly never forget," he said.

He was called in for his opinion after the mother, Kera, appeared ill in late pregnancy.

Image copyright Bristol Zoo
Image caption The gorilla was born on 12 February weighing 2lbs 10oz

The zoo's vet, Rowena Killick, told the BBC they made the "hard call" to sedate Kera to find out what the problem was, as although she is trained to take paracetamol, she would not take it when she felt unwell.

It is thought she was suffering from pre-eclampsia which can trigger high blood pressure and kidney problems and, if uncontrolled, can increase the chances of mother and baby dying.

The zoo said the three-hour operation was "very challenging". The baby was born with a strong heartbeat but had fluid in her lungs and was not breathing. It took two to three hours before she was breathing on her own.

"We really thought she was going to die," said Ms Killick.

"We couldn't see any signs of life apart from the heartbeat... and then eventually, she showed signs that she was going to breathe for herself."

Image copyright Bristol Zoo
Image caption The operation was "very challenging", a zoo spokesman said

The baby is getting stronger every day and had responded well to "skin-to-skin" contact with her mother, Kera.

She spends every day in the zoo's gorilla house "within sight and smell" of her mother, although she is being cared for by keepers while Kera recovers.

"Kera is still not 100%. She's still recovering, she's eating and drinking and she's started moving around a bit more normally." said Ms Killick.

She said as it was Kera's first baby, she had never held a baby before and "doesn't really know what's going on". The zoo might get another gorilla who "has shown real promise at being a mother" to foster the baby.

The baby gorilla is currently not on show at the zoo.

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