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Bristol Zoo Gardens’ miracle gorilla is celebrating her second birthday on Monday.
Afia was born by emergency caesarean section in February 2016 after her mother, Kera, showed symptoms of potentially life-threatening pre-eclampsia.
The operation was carried out by consultant surgeons from Bristol University along with the Zoo’s own vet team.
They delivered the tiny western lowland gorilla weighing just over 1kg (2lbs 6oz) a few weeks premature. She needed help from vets before she was able to breathe independently,
It was the first time a gorilla had been born by caesarean at Bristol Zoo, and one of only a handful of instances worldwide.
Afia, which means Friday-born child in Ghanian, had to be hand-reared as her mum, Kera, was too ill to care for her. Keepers fed her milk from a bottle every two hours, day and night, and took it in turns to take her home each evening.
As she grew up, keepers had to teach her natural gorilla behaviours. Their hard work and dedication paid off as Afia flourished.
When Kera recovered from the surgery and subsequent illness, she showed no maternal interest towards Afia.
However, the Zoo’s most dominant female, Romina, was very interested and would often spend a long time alongside Afia whilst keepers cared for her. In time Romina was introduced to Afia and became her surrogate mum.
It is expected that Afia will remain with Romina until she is almost five, learning and receiving care from her, until she reaches an independent age. She will then stay in the Zoo’s gorilla troop until she reaches sexual maturity.
Curator of mammals, Lynsey Bugg, said: “Afia really is our little miracle. She came through against all the odds and is growing up into a strong and healthy gorilla.
“Her surrogate mum, Romina, cares for her very well and Afia has settled into life with our other gorillas.
“She is a very independent girl and can often be found far away from Romina, playing with other members of the group, especially Kera and our six-year old male Kukena. She is also fascinated by Jock and often follows him around. We are thrilled that we can celebrate her second birthday.”
Western lowland gorillas are listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
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