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WATCH: Aborable Baby Gorilla Born By Rare, Risky Cesarean Section

The baby gorilla born by C-section in the Bristol Zoo is under round-the-clock care.
Bristol Zoo
The baby gorilla born by C-section in the Bristol Zoo is under round-the-clock care.

A western lowland gorilla at the Bristol Zoo Gardens successfully gave birth by a risky and rare emergency cesarean section.

The U.K. zoo released a video of the new baby, who is now 11 days old and weighs just over 2.2 pounds.

A warning: The beginning of the video shows a few seconds of the operation. You can skip to 0:20 for footage of the cute gorilla.

It's highly unusual for veterinarians to perform C-sections on gorillas — in fact, there have been only a handful of cases worldwide, the zoo says.

The zoo said in a statement that Kera, the mother gorilla, had shown signs of pre-eclampsia, prompting the emergency procedure.

"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," explained senior curator of animals John Partridge.

Along with its own veterinarians, the zoo called in a doctor specializing in human reproductive medicine and gynecology who has "delivered hundreds of babies by casarean in his career." It was Professor Cahill's first gorilla C-section.

Cahill called it "probably one of the biggest achievements of my life and something I will certainly never forget."

The zoo told the BBC that the operation, which took three hours, was "very challenging." Zoo vet Rowene Kilick told the BBC, "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."

The baby gorilla, who has yet to be named, is under round-the-clock care and is not on show to visitors at the zoo. She's "doing really well," the zoo says, and her mother is recovering from her operation.

The western lowland gorilla is classified as critically endangered.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.