Baby Gorilla Born Via C-Section Treated for Collapsed Lung

The baby is still dealing with complications from a difficult birth

A tiny, two-day-old gorilla born by emergency C-section at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was taken to the park’s veterinary hospital Friday morning to undergo treatment for a collapsed lung after experiencing increased respiratory distress.

Vets had been monitoring the baby gorilla around-the-clock since her birth and noticed she was experiencing increased respiratory distress. The baby animal’s heart rate became elevated and she was breathing very rapidly. After conducting a chest X-ray, veterinarians confirmed that the baby gorilla had a collapsed lung.

So, on Friday morning, a team of vets and animal care specialists gathered to perform the procedure. They were also joined by a neonatal specialist and anesthesiologist from the University of California, San Diego Health System.

The tiny gorilla was carefully intubated and specialists suctioned out a mucus plug that was in her right lung. Park officials believe it likely aspirated at the time of the baby gorilla’s complicated delivery. Following the procedure, the medical team re-inflated the critter’s lung.

After monitoring the baby animal, specialists concluded that both lungs were fully inflated and called the procedure a success.

Once she awoke from the anesthesia, her breathing tube was removed and she was placed on a nasal cannula with oxygen for continued respiratory support.

Park officials say the baby gorilla will continue to receive 24-7 monitoring.

She remains in intensive care and, for now, specialists say she’s making progress and is beginning to breathe on her own but is still receiving oxygen and fluids as needed. Specialists say the baby gorilla has a very strong grip already, using both her hands and feet to reach out.

Now, C-sections are fairly common in human births, but it's rare to hear about them in the animal kingdom.

That's why San Diego Zoo Safari Park officials are touting the birth of this new baby gorilla, courtesy of an emergency C-section.

According to park officials, the baby’s mother, 18-year-old gorilla Imani, went into labor Wednesday morning.

However, by that evening, she showed no signs of progress, so veterinary staff took her to the Safari Park veterinary hospital for emergency surgery.

"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.”

The operation was done by a San Diego Zoo Global team and outside consultants, including a veterinary surgeon and human neonatal specialist from UC San Diego Medical Center.

The 4.6-pound female baby -- which has not been named -- showed complications that veterinarians believe is related to a difficult labor, zoo officials say. This included her collapsed lung on Friday.

Meanwhile, the baby’s mother is recovering from surgery in the gorilla habitat, eating and doing well, officials confirmed. Keepers will continue to keep a close eye on her too.

This is Imani’s first baby – the 17th to be born at Safari Park, which now houses eight gorillas.

Two of the males were also born in San Diego: Monroe in 2011 and Frank in 2008.

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