A reunion that is almost too sweet to bear: The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s newest gorilla mom Imani got to hold her baby for the first time Monday morning.
The 12-day-old female gorilla was placed on a soft hay pile, and Imani was let in to physically meet her daughter.
The mother took a close look at her baby, smelled her and eventually picked her up.
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"Initially she was just carrying the baby, she never set the baby down," said Andrew Stallard, the park’s animal care supervisor. "About three hours in, she began nursing the baby.”
In about five minutes, the baby fell asleep in her mother’s arms, an exciting moment for the staff.
The tiny ape has been through a lot since her birth on March 12 through emergency C-section, a rare procedure for gorillas.
She was treated for a collapsed lung the day after her birth, and on March 18, the zoo announced she had been diagnosed with pneumonia.
But on Monday, Imani finally got some bonding time with the little one– who still does not have a name – and cradled her around the bedroom area, eventually letting the baby cling onto her back as she moved around.
After some one-on-one time, animal care staff let 5-year-old male gorilla Frank into the bedroom area. Zoo officials say Imani has a special bond with Frank, since she acted as his surrogate mother after he was born in the zoo in 2008.
Officials said staff will continue monitoring the infant gorilla to make sure she is getting the nutrition she needs.
This is Imani’s first baby and the 17th to be born at the Safari Park, where eight gorillas now live.