Doctors help deliver gorilla baby via caesarean

Doctors in Philadelphia delivered a different kind of baby than usual on Friday. Medical specialists joined a team of veterinary surgeons to deliver a gorilla at the Philadelphia Zoo after the mother, 17-year-old Kira, appeared to struggle during labour.

After having gone into labour on Thursday, zoo staff sought assistance when it became clear the Kira was having difficulty.

The zoo's veterinary team contacted consultants who had been on standby to help out in the event of any problems, including veterinary and medical professionals from institutions, including the local Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

After putting Kira under anaesthesia doctors examined her and determined she was fully dilated and that the baby was in position for a vaginal delivery.

She was transported to the zoo's veterinary hospital where, after an hour and a half, she gave birth to a healthy 5-pound baby boy.

Usually, gorilla births are quick and the mother does not appear distressed. With Kira, however, staff at the zoo noticed she was growing tired after being in labour and were concerned for her health.

The surgeons, anesthesiologists and an Ob-Gyn were prepared to respond if anything went wrong during labor or Kira's pregnancy.

While gorilla cesarean sections aren't out of the ordinary, this was the first assisted vaginal delivery for a gorilla since 2000, according to the Philadelphia Zoo. The birth required tools similar to those used during human deliveries.

Kira, a western lowland gorilla, was a first-time mother, though this is the third offspring for 32-year-old father Motuba. The newborn male joins another baby gorilla from the zoo, also fathered by Motuba.

With Kira still recovering from anaesthesia, vet staff cuddled and fed the new born through the night, reuniting him with his mother the following morning. The zoo said she had been "cradling and feeding him since".

"It was an anxious and dramatic day at the zoo, but in the end a tremendously rewarding one," Dr Andy Baker, Philadelphia Zoo's chief operating officer, said in a news release.

''Though Kira is a first-time mom, we're not surprised she's acting like an expert already. She was a great older sister to younger siblings and has been very attentive while our other female gorilla Honi has raised baby Amani. Everybody is excited about these two future playmates.''

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists western lowland gorillas as critically endangered in the wild.