Imani, a female gorilla, living in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, gave birth to a baby girl. However, it was not an easy birth. There were complications, and a C-section needed to be performed. When Joanne was born, she was facing medical complications as well.
Getting the best of care
The tiny gorilla needed immediate care at the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center to make sure she would stay alive. For the first several days, she required oxygen therapy, including high-flow therapy, to make sure that her airways remained open and able to accept that oxygen. The tiny gorilla was even on an IV drip to make sure that she avoided dehydration during those first few critical days.
By the time Joanne was eight days old, the small gorilla was already starting to improve. She no longer needed the IV or any intervention for her breathing. She was drinking formula happily from a bottle, and it was clear that she had survived the worst of it. This small creature was ready to thrive.
Her mom was also well on the way to recovery and was healing nicely after her surgery. Less than a day after surgery, she had already begun moving around like normal and her diet was the same as it had always been. By day eight, she had already been released back into the gorilla community in the park and seemed to be adjusting perfectly to being back in familiar surroundings.
The only thing missing from the picture was her baby.
By the eleventh day, Joanne was strong enough to finally meet her mom. She was brought from the veterinary center to the gorilla house for the family reunion. One of the caretakers held her low on the ground, with a gate between the baby and mother, so the two could meet for the first time since they had been separated.
They looked at each other through the gate, and Imani gazed at the tiny little gorilla that she had created. They were ready to be officially reunited.
The zookeepers were pleased with how the introduction had gone and were ready for the next step.
One of the workers gently placed the baby on a pile of hay in Imani’s room. After that, they gave the mother access to the room with her child in it. When she entered, she immediately spotted her daughter and went straight to her. She hugged, cradled, and loved on the baby. There wasn’t even a flicker of doubt – this was the baby she had been separated from for twelve long days.
She carried Joanne around on her back as the other gorillas watched from behind barriers. This was important to make sure that all the gorillas knew the baby was Imani’s and that she was a member of their group.
Three Hours Later
After spending a few hours getting acquainted, a time in which the mother never put her baby down, she began to nurse. The zookeepers hailed this as an extremely good sign. It was exactly what they had been hoping for.
The two spent the night together in the room, still separated from the rest of the gorillas.
This was going to be a big day for both of them. As a park full of excited visitors watched, the pair were finally released into the gorilla area of the park.
Imani came out cradling her baby and began to forage and act like normal. Eventually, she sat down to nurse. The baby’s father sat further away, supervising two older siblings. Everything was right in their little world. While they may have had a bumpy start with the C-section, they were all together again and introducing Joanne into the community had gone perfectly.
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