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Gorilla delivered in emergency C-section is growing, getting round-the-clock care at Fort Worth Zoo

Gorilla delivered in emergency C-section is growing, getting round-the-clock care at Fort Worth Zoo

A baby gorilla was delivered early via an emergency cesarean section at the Forth Worth Zoo last month after her mother faced “life-threatening complications,” the zoo announced.

The baby — named Jameela, which means “beautiful” in Swahili — weighed just 3 pounds and 1 ounce when she was born four to six weeks early Jan. 5, the Fort Worth Zoo said in a series of Facebook updates. Her mom has made a full recovery.

The zoo said the animal’s mom, Sekani, was showing signs of preeclampsia, which it described as “a serious blood-pressure condition that can occur during pregnancy in both humans and primates.”

After zoo staff and veterinarians consulted with human experts, including a local obstetrician and neonatologist, the team decided the emergency C-section would give both Jameela and Sekani the greatest chance at life.

“Primates are humans’ closest living relatives in the animal kingdom with many biological similarities,” the zoo said on Facebook. “Our veterinary team has consulted with physicians for humans in the past to seek advice on particular cases involving primates.”

The zoo said it worked with Dr. Jamie Walker Erwin, a doctor board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology who has consulted for the zoo for years. Erwin; Dr. Robert Ursprung, a neonatologist; Dennis Occkiogrosso, a certified registered nurse anesthetist; and other “supporting experts” helped safely deliver Jameela and provide care.

“Taking part in delivering Sekani’s infant via cesarean section was one of the highlights of my entire career as an OB-GYN,” Erwin said, according to the zoo. “It is an honor and privilege to assist with care for this endangered species.”

Erwin added that she was “amazed at how Sekani’s anatomy matched that of my human patients.”

Jameela is the third gorilla to be born at the Fort Worth Zoo in its 115-year history and the first born by C-section, the zoo said. She is 33-year-old Sekani’s fourth baby.

Prior to the emergency C-section, the zoo said Sekani was having a normal pregnancy and was expected to deliver in early to mid- February.

But on Jan. 3, zookeepers observed odd behavior from Sekani. The zoo said she was “moving slowly and holding her head, as if she had a headache,” leading doctors to the preeclampsia diagnosis.

Just after she was brought into the world, Jameela “required immediate intervention,” the zoo said, including “resuscitation and stabilization, respiratory support, radiographs, and serial examinations of the premature gorilla.”

On Facebook, the zoo said Jameela is already up to 5 pounds, which is in part thanks to the around-the-clock team at the Fort Worth Zoo who feed her at all hours.

Though Jameela is growing, Sekani is showing no signs of interest in being a mother, according to the zoo.

“Despite repeated attempts to reunite the mother and baby, Sekani showed little interest in caring for her baby,” the zoo said.

The zoo added that it is “hard to determine” exactly why Sekani is behaving this way, but experts have guessed that she “never experienced the necessary hormonal cues that come during natural and full-term birth, therefore resulting in disinterest in the baby.”

After two weeks of attempts to reunite the mother and daughter, zookeepers shifted focus to another gorilla, 24-year-old Gracie, who they hope will serve as a surrogate for Jameela.

“Observing our staff and their continuous commitment to this baby and the subsequent surrogacy journey is a testament to their dedication to the animals in their care,” said Michael Fouraker, executive director of the Fort Worth Zoo. “It’s been incredibly inspiring to witness and we are all hopeful that we can continue to watch this little one grow.”

Rebecca Cohen

Rebecca Cohen is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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