It’s hard to believe that a three-week-old baby western lowland gorilla caius wasn’t expected to survive.
His name means ‘rejoice’, which is fitting given all that he’s been through.
The first baby gorilla, Caius, was born from Kipenji at Mogo Wildlife Park and everyone was excited to give birth.
But when the day finally came, everything changed.
“Kipenzi and [father] Kisane is a new parent,” said zookeeper Chad Staples.
Everything went according to plan at first. Kipenji was able to clean, nurse and nurse the newborn baby.
However, her labor pains did not last. This meant that Kipenji did not give birth to her placenta and she had to be prepared for emergency surgery.
Then, about eight hours after giving birth, Kisane took the newborn baby from Kipenji, but it wasn’t the fatherly role the zookeeper wanted him to do.
“He was so sweet and caring, so attentive, but he wouldn’t give him back,” said Chad.
“We were finally able to separate Babu from his father. I took care of him that night because it coincided with his mother’s placenta removal procedure.”
However, when Kipenji woke up, she showed no interest in her child.
“She didn’t want to have anything to do with him, maybe because she knew something was wrong,” Chad said.
Baby Caius was left in bed with his family for as long as possible, but the decision was made to bring him out again.
That’s when the team noticed that his color and demeanor had changed.
“Having been with dad or mom, he would have died 100% because we couldn’t catch him in time,” Chad said.
It turns out he had septic pneumonia, which can also affect human babies, and usually enters the body through the umbilical cord.
Chad stated that Kisane may have bitten off the umbilical cord, which introduced bacteria into Caius’ body.
Luckily, he was in touch with human birth experts during the preparation phase, so he was able to summon the team right away.
“Human doctors are pretty close to being gorilla experts,” said Chad. “They just treated him like a human baby.”
Once the treatment was completed, it was a game of waiting to see if the antibiotics would work.
“Everybody left thinking he was going to die in the middle of the night,” said Chad.
“He was sleeping on me skin-to-skin all night and he just kept fighting.”
There were some hairy moments over the next few days, but the team was able to keep Caius hydrated and happy as the antibiotics kicked in.
He needed two injections twice a day for seven days, was connected to oxygen and a nasogastric tube, and was unable to return to his family immediately.
After being apart for so long, the challenge was to try to reunite the family.
Chad bottle-feeds for Caius next to his parents’ room, leaving the baby’s bedding behind so he can smell the baby.
“Unfortunately, my mom isn’t interested at all, but my grandma and my dad are,” he said.
The plan is to create space for Caius to escape once he’s strong enough so that his handlers can feed him.
However, if that plan cannot be realized, it is hoped that he will be able to return to his family when he is older.
“This is a long road. It’s not something that will be fixed tomorrow,” said Chad.
“I don’t know how long I will care for him. My family will let me know when the time is right for me to take the next step.”
For now, Caius lives with Chad, who has never taken care of a baby gorilla.
But he said his experience as a father gave him some ideas of what to do.
“I have four kids of my own, so it’s very similar,” Chad said.
“The only additional element is making sure he stays in touch with his family so they understand the concept of him being part of the group.”
For now, “Little Fighter” Caius has grown into a beautiful boy, gaining weight and beginning to discover the world.
Chad acknowledged his progress thanks to a “guardian angel” who stepped out of the human world to lend a hand to the gorilla world.
“Once they got over the shock that they were working on a gorilla, they really got to work,” he said.
“Without them, Caius wouldn’t be here today.”
Original article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.