The San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomed a baby gorilla via emergency C-section on March 12. While one in three human babies are born through cesarean sections, the procedure is extremely rare among gorillas.
The baby’s mother, 18-year-old Imani, went into labor Wednesday morning. Twelve hours later she had made little progress, so veterinary staff made the decision to go forward with a C-section per NBC San Diego.
“With gorillas that’s very unusual,” zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons said. “Four hours is long for them.”
Imani had to be sedated and transferred to the zoo’s veterinary hospital, where the baby was delivered weighing 4.6 pounds. She has yet to be named.
The operation was conducted by a San Diego Zoo Global team and outside consultants, which included a veterinary surgeon and human neonatal specialist from UC SanDiego Medical Center.
“In retrospect the C-section was the right decision,” said the park’s Associate Director of Veterinary Services Nadine Lamberski in a release. “We think the health of the fetus would have been compromised if we delayed the surgery any longer.”
Imani is recovering from her surgery in the gorilla habitat and is reportedly eating and doing well officials report. Keepers will continue to keep a close watch on her.
Friday, the little bundle suffered a set back and had to undergo treatment for a collapsed lung after experiencing increased respiratory distress.
Since her birth, vets had been closely monitoring the baby gorilla around the clock, when they noticed her breathing very rapidly and her heart rate began to escalate. After performing a chest x-ray, veterinarians confirmed that she had a collapsed lung, believed to be the result of her complicated delivery.
Following a successful procedure, specialists conclude, both lungs are fully inflated and are cautiously optimistic.
For now, the baby gorilla remains in intensive care where she is receiving 24-7 monitoring. She’s made great strides and is beginning to breathe on her own, but still receiving oxygen and fluids as needed. According to the specialist, she has a very strong grip already, using both her hands and feet to reach out.
This is Imani’s first baby – the seventieth baby to be born at the Safari Park, which is now home to eight gorillas.