A baby western lowland gorilla is "doing well" after being born in an extremely rare cesarean section operation at the Bristol Zoo. The yet-to-be-named newborn, weighing only two pounds and 10 ounces, arrived on Feb. 12.

Her birth marks the first time a gorilla has been born by a C-section procedure at the Bristol Zoo and is among only a handful of such births worldwide, the zoo said in a news release. A team of vets and doctors at the U.K. zoo performed the operation after the baby's mother, Kera, showed "symptoms of potentially life-threatening pre-eclampsia." Kera is now recovering and under close observation.

"The birth of any gorilla is a rare and exciting event; but the birth of a baby gorilla by cesarean section is even more unusual," John Partridge, Bristol Zoo's senior curator of animals, said in the release. "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."

Dr. David Cahill, a Professor in Reproductive Medicine and Medical Education at the University of Bristol's School of Clinical Sciences and gynecologist at St. Michael's Hospital, had delivered hundreds of human babies by C-section throughout his career, but this was his first time delivering a baby gorilla by this procedure.

"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," Dr. Cahill explained. "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."

Dr. Cahill and his colleague from St Michael's hospital, Dr. Aamna Ali, delivered the baby gorilla together. The last time doctors performed a gorilla C-section was in 2014 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 

"Along with having my own children, this is probably one of the biggest achievements of my life and something I will certainly never forget," Dr. Cahill added. "I have since been back to visit Kera and the baby gorilla, it was wonderful to see them both doing so well."

Following the C-section the newborn needed help, including mouth-to-mouth, to breathe on her own. The first few days of life are critical and it is important that the baby is kept warm and being fed small amount 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," Lynsey Bugg, curator of mammals at the zoo and one of a small team of keepers providing 24-hour care for the infant, explained.

While it has only been a couple days since the birth, the zoo is "cautiously optimistic" and will be keeping a very close eye on both Kera and her newborn. 


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