Jameela, premature gorilla born via rare c-section, accepted by surrogate mother after zoo transfer

In February, we reported on the story of Jameela, a prematurely-born baby gorilla who was successfully delivered via a rare c-section.

But it turns out that wasn’t the end of the story. Baby Jameela was rejected by her mother, prompting an urgent search for a proper surrogate.

Now, the story has an inspiring update…

Courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo

Born from rare c-section

Jameela was born at Texas’ Fort Worth Zoo to 33-year-old western lowland gorilla Sekani. It was a routine pregnancy and Sekani wasn’t expected to give birth until February, but on January 3 she began exhibiting unusual symptoms.

After medical tests, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a serious blood-pressure condition. The zoo realized the lives of both the mom and baby were in danger, and decided an emergency c-section.

Courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo

C-sections, in which the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdomen, are fairly common in human births but rarely performed on gorillas. But given our reproductive biological similarities, the procedure is much the same.

The zoo consulted with Dr. Jamie Walker Erwin, a local obstetrician and gynecologist, who assembled a team of experts for the surgery.

Courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo

The c-section was a success, but because Jameela was born 4-6 weeks premature they had to act fast to save her life, providing resuscitation, stabilization and respiratory support.

Rejected by birth mother

Over the next few weeks, she received round-the-clock care and the baby gorilla’s health eventually stabilized. The newborn was given the name Jameela, which means “beautiful” in Swahili and is also a tribute to Dr. Jamie Erwin.

Courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo

Sekani also recovered from the procedure. However, the team soon faced another hurdle: when they attempted to reunite the mother and child, Sekani showed no interest in caring for her baby, likely because she never experienced the necessary hormonal cues that would’ve come from a natural birth.

After two weeks of unsuccessful attempts, they attempted to introduce Jameela to another female gorilla at the zoo, Gracie, hoping she would accept the baby as a surrogate. However, this also proved to be unsuccessful.

A decision was then made to transfer Jameela to a different zoo where she may be adopted by a female gorilla. Last week, she was flown to her new home at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

“Our main goal has always been that Jameela is raised by gorillas,” Mike Fouraker, executive director of the Fort Worth Zoo, said in a press release. “We have been in contact with the team at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and are hopeful that our ultimate goal will be met.

Courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo

The transfer has proven to be successful. “The introductions here have gone really well. The troop here seems receptive to her presence,” Fort Worth Zoo primary gorilla keeper Angie Holmes said in a video.

“Our intial intro process has been really great. We’ve had interest from multiple gorillas,” said said Brian Price, gorilla keeper at Cleveland Metroparks. “Fredricka, who is our proven surrogate, came over and had some really good interactions with Jameela. She made some vocalizations.”

In an update, the zoo confirmed that Fredricka, aka Freddy, has been successfully bonding with Jameela and appears to have adopted the little one as a surrogate.

“Freddy immediately went in and picked her up. It was the biggest sigh of relief,” Laura Klutts, associate animal curator at the zoo, said in a video. “That was the first time Jameela was able to be picked up properly by a female gorilla.”

“Now that we’ve kind of hit that next box that we need to see, we can move forward with what that looks like with what our gorillas say they’re ready for.”

“That is exactly what we were hoping to see,” animal curator Elena Less said.

Jameela’s first weeks of life have been quite dramatic and filled with complications, but it seems that she’s finally in good hands.

“To see what that looks like in a successful way, it brought tears to my eyes,” said Angie Holmes.

We’re so glad little Jameela has found a great new home and has been accepted by a gorilla surrogate mom.

Please share this inspiring update! ❤️

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