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Monday 9 December 2019

'It was surreal' - Irish doctor delivers baby gorilla by C-section

Professor David Cahill with the baby western lowland gorilla. Photo: PA
Professor David Cahill with the baby western lowland gorilla. Photo: PA
The as yet unnamed baby female Western Lowland gorilla born at Bristol Zoo in England. Photo: PA

Joe O'Shea

It was anything but a regular delivery for gynaecologist David Cahill. The distressed mother was a 17-stone gorilla and the baby was a little hairier than he is accustomed to.

The recent birth of a baby Western Lowland gorilla by Caesarean is a first for a UK zoo and one of only a handful ever carried out worldwide.

And with mother and baby now doing well, Professor Cahill, from Blarney in Co Cork, can look back on what he describes as "an incredible but very surreal experience".

The professor of reproductive medicine and medical education at the University of Bristol was called in by the local zoo earlier this month when expectant mum Kera showed signs of distress.

"Bristol Zoo got in touch with us because they were very concerned about her," says the UCC-trained doctor.

"They asked me to come in and examine her. And after our assessments and scans, we decided the mother was most likely suffering from pre-eclampsia."

Prof Cahill has carried out hundreds of C-sections over the course of his career. But this was his first on a gorilla. "Once we decided to go ahead, there was an element of the surreal to the operation," says Professor Cahill.

"You were doing things that were very familiar. But you were very clearly operating on a gorilla. You could hear her snorting and grunting under the anaesthetic.

"And you would look down and her huge, hairy hands were just beside you."

The baby girl, now 11 days old and doing well, is as yet unnamed.

She is being hand-reared round the clock by a small team of experienced gorilla keepers.

First-time mum Kera is recovering and is being monitored closely by the zoo's veterinary team.

Professor Cahill has been back to Bristol Zoo this week to check up on his patient and her baby.

Irish Independent

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