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One Little Gorilla's Story

Imani's First Baby

When Imani the gorilla was in labor with her first baby, all seemed to be going well. Keepers and veterinarians at the Safari Park were there, monitoring her progress as nature took its course. With her contractions two minutes apart, the birth should have happened at any moment, but several hours later, it was clear the mother-to-be was in distress.

Imani needed help.

baby gorilla wrapped in a pink blanket

Saving Mother and Baby

Imani was sedated and whisked to the veterinary hospital for an emergency C-section delivery. An amazing team assembled, which included veterinary surgeons and specialists in caring for human newborns. As they shaved Imani’s belly to get started, there were concerns about how the baby was doing. But then as the surgery unfolded, a little black leg poked out, and the baby girl gorilla was born.

baby gorilla being bottle fed

I See You In the ICU

The fragile infant stayed at the veterinary hospital for round-the-clock care. Because of the long labor, the baby was having trouble breathing—it turned out that she had a collapsed lung and pneumonia. Happily, doctors were able to treat her and were hopeful about her recovery. After eight days, the baby was able to breathe on her own and gulp down bottles of infant formula.

Meanwhile, mom Imani was recovering well. Keepers brought blankets and stuffed animals with the baby’s scent to her to smell, and brought her scent back to the baby. They also recorded the baby’s sounds to play for Imani. Then keepers brought the baby to the gorilla bedrooms to visit, so everyone could see her.

baby gorilla face close up

Reunited and It Feels So Good!

Twelve days after her birth, the baby was laid down in a nest of soft hay in the gorilla bedroom. Imani was let in. She went right to the baby and sniffed her—then quickly scooped her up and cradled her. 

Soon the baby nursed, and keepers let out a collective sigh of relief. This was just the happy ending everyone had hoped for.

photos of mom & baby gorilla
photo of mom & baby gorilla
photo of mom & baby gorilla
photo of mom & baby gorilla

Why They Need You

Things turned out well for this little gorilla and her mom, but wild gorillas are having a tough time. People are moving into their habitat, destroying gorilla homes by cutting down forests, setting up mining operations, and polluting the environment. Poachers also capture baby gorillas to sell as pets, often killing the parents, and they also kill gorillas to sell in markets as meat that people eat.

As a result, gorillas are endangered and could become extinct.

baby gorilla

How You Can Help

Gorillas live in forests threatened by logging, mining, disease, and…our electronic devices! Coltan is an ore used in cell phone and computer batteries, and it is found in the gorillas’ home. Recycling your cell phones means the coltan can be reused, which will reduce demand for mining in Africa. Purchasing FSC-certified wood products saves forests. For a life-changing experience, visit the gorillas in Central Africa and observe them in person—your park permit fee helps conserve these great apes.

baby gorilla clinging to mom's back