Monday, July 8, 2013

JOY! A Healthy Baby BOY!

Saturday was a fun day at the Forest Glade at the North Carolina Zoo. The place was packed with families enjoying their Fourth of July weekend. Unfortunately the gorilla exhibit was closed, but the volunteers gave the good news to the waves of disappointed visitors as they kept arriving in greater and greater numbers. The family was unavailable because they were busy behind the scenes with Acacia, rallying her on as she labored to deliver a baby!  Visitors were delighted to learn all about the process, and made the connection-gorillas, at the time of a birth, are very much like people! Baby Bomassa was cuddling with Acacia and trying to make her feel better through her contractions. And N'kosi was standing guard and making sure no one bothered her. And by no one, we mean Olympia, lol. One of the volunteers was saying that Daddy N'kosi would be coming out any minute with a box of cigars to hand out. Or would it be carrots!  That's Nick's favorite, after all.
But it did not happen quickly at all. Poor thing. She had started labor at around 7:30 in the morning and was still in that condition at zoo closing time, and all the way through to Sunday morning. Things appeared to be going well, but eventually it was just taking too long, and she needed to be sent off for care. Zookeepers rejoiced when the sonogram showed a beating heart; preparations were made for surgery when it became clear this was the best option. Acacia is a very small gorilla and this being her first delivery, that birth canal was perhaps just a little too narrow for the simple delivery we all had hoped for.

Surgery was successful and Acacia was doing well when I left the zoo Sunday at closing time. She had woken up from anasthesia and was recovering well, as the mother of a healthy and strong baby boy. Naturally,  I have no mother-and-newborn photos to show you, because all this has happened behind the scenes. The hope is that Acacia will be able to nurse through her recovery and keep and raise the baby, but of course, she's got an incision now, which will need to heal. This won't be easy for her, but let's hope she can manage. It would break my heart if Acacia were unable to mother her own baby. In the gorilla world, the moms have increased status and seem to get a little more respect in the troop and  I would like to see Acacia follow that path. She's been a bit of a loner in all the time I have been visiting, often going off by herself when the two moms Jamani and Olympia are busy looking after Bomassa and Apollo. I have been hoping this birth would result in Acacia being able to join in the important work of mothering.
Acacia has been an affectionate auntie for Bomassa

Olympia might be willing to care the new baby if needed
And what if Acacia is unable to nurse the baby, or rejects the baby due to the pain of her incision? The good news is that Olympia, pictured here, has shown herself to be willing and able to nurse two babies simultaneously. She once absconded with Bomassa and nursed him AND her own baby Apollo for a full five days, after all.  And she is still nursing Apollo, so she's got plenty of milk. Zookeepers believe there is every chance that Olympia would immediately assume mothering duties for Baby Gorilla if Acacia refuses to do so.
Let's keep Acacia and Baby in our thoughts this week in these critical early days!