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Philadelphia Zoo Welcomes an Endangered Baby Gorilla — Delivered by an OB-GYN

posted: 06/22/17
by: Blythe Copeland
baby gorilla
The Atlantic

For Philadelphia OB-GYN Rebekah McCurdy, a last-minute call to an unscheduled c-section in early June became an unforgettable experience when she ended up delivering a baby gorilla. The call came from the Philadelphia Zoo, whose second female gorilla, Kira, was in labor.

Kira had been laboring for longer than a gorilla's usual 6-12 hours, and her behavior had changed: "she had become inactive, and she had lost interest in food," wrote Ed Yong for The Atlantic. The Zoo had a high-risk expert OB on standby, but when he wasn't able to make it to the delivery, they contacted McCurdy. "I grew up on a farm so I'm used to animals," she told The Atlantic, "but certainly not western lowland gorillas."

The baby gorilla was facing the wrong way, McCurdy found, which may have been the reason Kira was having trouble with the delivery. Instead of doing a c-section, which can have long-range complications for the gorilla mother, "one of the more muscular vets bent a pair of retractors into the right shape" to create a set of forceps, and McCurdy was able to pull out the male baby -- the newest member of a critically endangered species that numbers fewer than 100,000 in the wild.

"For the most part," McCurdy told The Atlantic, "I was in the moment, doing what I do every day. It wasn't until afterwards that it really hit me. Oh my, I believe I just delivered a gorilla."

The Atlantic has more details on the lifesaving delivery and how Kira and her baby are bonding now ("The two of them have been inseparable").