The team of professionals, from the human medical field, including an ob-gyn, surgeons and anesthesiologists came in on an emergency call to assist Kira give birth to her newborn, last week at the Philadelphia Zoo.

After one and a half hours, the team delivered a healthy five pound male baby, to the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, Kira and the zoo’s 32-year-old Motuba on Friday, June 2.

Baby gorilla An endangered gorilla has been born at the Philadelphia Zoo following an emergency delivery that required the help of both veterinarians and human doctors. Photo: Philadelphia Zoo

Medical experts from leading institutions like University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Presbyterian Hospital and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital had to be called in after Kira, who was pregnant for the first time, began showing signs Thursday of being in labor. However, concern for the animal’s well-being grew when the baby had still not been delivered the following day.

“She appeared to tire and behaved as if she were feeling worse over the course of the morning and there were no signs of the labor progressing,” the zoo said in a statement released Wednesday. “Typically, gorilla labor is quick and the mother does not appear tired, distressed, or show symptoms of feeling poorly.”

The pre-determined team of medical staff gathered to assist in the birth. They determined that Kira, placed under anesthesia, was fully dilated and that the baby was in position for a vaginal delivery, the zoo said.

Baby gorilla 2 A pre-determined team of medical staff — including an ob-gyn, surgeons, veterinarians and anesthesiologists — gathered to assist in the birth. Photo: Philadelphia Zoo

Veterinary staff cared for the newborn while Kira recovered from anesthesia. The mother and baby were reunited the following morning, and Kira took over mommy duties of cradling and nursing her son.

“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,” said Dr. Andy Baker. “Everybody is excited about these two future playmates.”

The baby will be nursed exclusively by Kira for the first five to six months, after which he will begin to eat solids.  He will however also continue to nurse for at least three to four years, the zoo said. 

This is the first birth for Kira and third offspring for Motuba, who is also father to baby Amani born at the Zoo last August. The newborn can be seen with the rest of the gorilla troop in PECO Primate Reserve.

The Zoo plans to work again with the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE) in the Democratic Republic of Congo to choose a name for the infant.

Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), facing threats from a number of factors including habitat destruction due to palm oil and timber plantations as global demand for palm oil and paper continues to rise.

“Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60 percent over the last 20 to 25 years. Even if all of the threats to western lowland gorillas were removed, scientists calculate that the population would require some 75 years to recover,” said the World Wild Life website.

“The Zoo works with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose goal is to manage populations of endangered and other species across AZA zoos, to maintain long-term genetic and demographic viability,” the zoo said in a statement.