Baby gorilla is the newest — and most tummy-tickling — addition to Philadelphia Zoo

Sorry, April. Your baby giraffe is old news. After a difficult labor for mom and an emergency medical intervention, the Philadelphia Zoo welcomed a new — possibly the cutest — baby western lowland gorilla on Friday.

The 5-pound baby gorilla boy and mom seem healthy, the zoo said, but a newborn gorilla is helpless and relies on mom, like a newborn human would. The baby, which can be seen with the troop in the PECO Primate Reserve, is the first for 17-year-old Kira. Silverback Motuba, 32, is a three-time dad, and he fathered baby Armani who was born at the zoo in August.

“It was an anxious and dramatic day at the zoo, but in the end, a tremendously rewarding one,” the Philadelphia Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer Andy Baker said.

Last week, keepers noticed Kira was showing signs of labor, but as Thursday turned into Friday and she acted tired and distressed, the veterinary staff grew concerned.

Gorilla labor is usually quick, and the mother doesn’t show any signs of fatigue, distress or symptoms of feeling ill, the zoo explained.

A team of veterinary and human medical consultants on stand-by, including ob-gyns, surgeons and anesthesiologists, stepped in.

Although fully dilated and ready for delivery, the team determined Kira required an assisted vaginal delivery, using forceps and an episiotomy. After 1 1/2 hours, the 5-pound baby boy was born. 

baby gorilla birth

The baby gorilla was cared for and fed overnight by vet staff while Kira recovered from anesthesia, and mom and son were reunited the following morning.

The zoo said Kira has been cradling him nonstop and nursing him while dad Motuba stays close to protect his family, a common role for gorilla fathers.

“Though Kira is a first-time mom, we’re not surprised she’s acting like an expert already,” Baker said. “She was a great older sister to younger siblings and has been very attentive while our other female gorilla, Honi, has raised baby Armani. Everybody is excited about these two future playmates.”

Western lowland gorillas are listed as critically endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Threats include habitat destruction due to palm oil and timber plantations.

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