The staff of the Philadelphia Zoo became concerned when their pregnant gorilla Kira didn’t give birth after an entire day of labor, and veterinarian Donna Ialeggio thought she might need a cesarean section. The zoo had arranged a partnership between their gorilla breeding program and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in 2009, in case there were problem births. Up until now, there was no need for intervention from the university’s doctors. But last week, the zoo called in ob-gyn Dr. Rebekah McCurdy, who had been named as a backup specialist.
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The team was nervous about doing a C-section. Gorillas have been born in this way before, but the recovery period can be rough for such active, climbing animals. The team knew that once Kira was back in her enclosure, they wouldn’t be able to get close enough to check her bandages. They knew that Kira is a fidgety gorilla, with a habit of picking at scabs. And most of all, they weren’t sure what to do about the baby while she was recovering. Gorilla infants stay with their mothers for years, and the keepers didn’t want to disrupt those first critical moments, when the bond between mother and baby solidifies.
Ialeggio asked McCurdy what she’d do if the patient was a human. “I’d pull the baby out,” McCurdy said.
And that is exactly what she did. Kira successfully delivered a five pound baby boy, and mother and child are doing fine. Read about the entire birthing event at the Atlantic.