Keepers at Melbourne Zoo have commenced a round the clock watch to monitor their pregnant gorilla, Kimya as they prepare for her to give birth. The birth is expected sometime between now and mid-March.
The zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Helen McCracken instructed keepers on how to identify labour so they can alert her to what is happening.
Eight cameras are monitoring the night dens with another four on the Gorilla Rainforest habitat. This surveillance system means keepers can see everything happening with the gorillas while not disturbing them as they are not familiar with humans being there overnight. The cameras even use infrared technology which means the gorillas don’t have lights on while they sleep.
Keepers are excitedly making preparations for the birth with a gorilla not having born at Melbourne Zoo since 2000. This was male Ganyeka who resides at Werribee Open Range Zoo in a bachelor group.
As they get closer to the birth they have noticed that Kimya is getting more restless overnight due to her large baby bump.
Excitement is rising as primate department manager, Hama Burton said, “We are so pleased that both Kimya and her mate Otana have come from good family groups where they have witnessed births and been part of raising younger babies. With this background and their strong bond, we are hopeful that she will raise the baby herself and he will show good fathering skills.”
“We believe having the other females witness the birth will be a valuable learning experience and preparation for their future pregnancies,” she added.
Mrs. McCracken is well experienced in gorilla births having witnessed six of the past babies at Melbourne Zoo. She has seen it all including caesareans and intensive care of sick newborns.
She hopes all will go perfectly and Kimya will have an easy birth and take quickly to caring for the infant.
She does point out though that, “not all births go smoothly, and this is Kimya’s first pregnancy, so although she is young and healthy we need to be ready if she does need any help.”
The zoo also has a number of medical specialists who have made themselves on call to assist if an obstetrical intervention or emergency baby care is needed.
Photo Credit: Melbourne Zoo