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caption: Lead zookeeper Hugh Bailey and zoo veterinarian Dr. Darin Collins take a close look at the newborn girl behind the scenes at Woodland Park Zoo. 
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Lead zookeeper Hugh Bailey and zoo veterinarian Dr. Darin Collins take a close look at the newborn girl behind the scenes at Woodland Park Zoo.
Credit: Woodland Park Zoo

Baby Gorilla Is Born At Woodland Park Zoo, But Mom Walks Away

It’s a girl!

Nadiri, a 19-year-old gorilla at the Woodland Park Zoo, gave birth to her daughter at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

The birth was natural, as zookeepers had hoped – they didn’t intervene. Labor for the first-time mom took four hours, start to finish.

But then Nadiri walked away from her baby.

Related: Why Zookeepers Don't Want To Touch Seattle's Newborn Gorilla

“Keepers watching closely could see the infant was moving, though still wrapped in placenta,” the Seattle zoo wrote in a blog post on Friday. “We made the call for the safety of the baby: It was time to intervene.”

The post continued: “While we hoped Nadiri would immediately hold and care for her baby, we stepped in for the safety of the newborn and made the decision to let the new mom rest.”

The zoo’s animal health team examined the baby.

She is a healthy and weighs 5 pounds, which is on the big side for a baby gorilla – typically, newborn gorillas weigh 4 pounds.

Zookeepers have set up a bedroom next to Nadiri’s den so she can hear and see her baby.

“Our goal is to methodically expose Nadiri to her baby and help kick in that maternal instinct,” the zoo’s story said. “She remains within visual contact and has content vocalized toward her baby, so she’s showing some interest.”

For now, though, the baby is in human hands. The baby has taken her first bottle, and she will be cared for by keepers until Nadiri reaches for her child.

Related: UW Surgeon Performs His First Gorilla Surgery

The father is Vip, 36. He has sired six kids with three females at Woodland Park Zoo.

It’s not the happiest ending to this story, but it’s better than what happened when Nadiri was born in 1996. Zookeepers and Swedish Hospital doctors rushed in after Nadiri’s mom, Jumoke, had labored for 40 hours and pushed for six. Jumoke was anesthetized, and the baby was suctioned out.

Frazier believes that Jumoke was traumatized and confused by her birth experience. When zookeepers would present Nadiri to Jumoke, Jumoke would look at her but wouldn’t pick her up.

“She was so nervous from what had happened the night before, she didn’t understand that she had given birth to her, because she was asleep, so she did not know what she was expected to do.”

Bonding was further impeded when Jumoke’s partner – Nadiri’s dad – died two weeks later.

When Nadiri got pregnant, zoo workers said they didn't want to get involved in the birth.

“If we never have our hands on this infant, never have to handle it in any way, I would consider that a huge success for all of us,” Harmony Frazier, a senior veterinary technician, told KUOW this week.

“Gorillas interact vocally in a way that we can’t replicate and understand,” Frazier said. “They need the smell; they need the sounds; they need to hear the other gorillas interacting. It’s really important that they get that right from the beginning.”

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