Gorillas are one of the closest animal relatives to humans, and raising a baby gorilla is a lot like raising a human baby. That’s what one heartwarming story from last year showed, when an Australian zookeeper stepped up to care for a baby gorilla rejected by its mother.
Now, there’s been a sweet update to that story, as the baby gorilla has a new adopted mom.
Last year, a baby gorilla named Kaius was born at Mogo Wildlife Park, in New South Wales to a mom named Kipenzi, but just when everything seemed to be going smoothly, the beautiful newborn’s life was almost cut short.
For reasons unknown, the baby’s father, Kisane, took Kaius away from his mother during a critical feeding period. While the dad was “very gentle and caring” with the newborn, removing the infant from his mother put his life in danger. Zoo staff were able to get the baby back to Kipenzi, after 14 hours, but Kaius had developed sepsis pneumonia and was rejected by his mother.
“The vets were talking about euthanasia. Doctors were talking about him probably not making it through the night,” Chad told CNN.
The newborn gorilla’s life was in danger — but zookeeper Chad Staples, along with veterinarians and staff, were not ready to give up. “On the first night I had him, when all the health care people had treated him and left, we all knew there was a high chance he would crash overnight,” Chad told The Sunday Telegraph.
Nursed back to health
Chad gave the baby gorilla round-the-clock care, providing all the love the baby’s mother would normally give him.
“Right now a lot of his care mimics the exact care you would give a human baby with all of his nutritional requirements, his hygiene and medical care but also in some ways most importantly his emotional care and development,” Chad wrote. “Kaius needs to know he is loved and protected just like a baby and please know I am providing this now around the clock.”
Kaius’ condition improved thanks to this contact and care: Chad said he was able to stabilize the gorilla’s breathing and heart rate by holding him to his chest and having him listen to his own heartbeat.
“Our beautiful little boy is make his own little steps forward,” Chad said at the time. “Still on all his medications but with such brightness in his eyes which gives us all hope.”
Chad compared the experience with caring for a newborn human baby: “The similarities are amazing,” Chad told CNN recently. “Even just looking at his eyes, it’s just like when you look at a newborn and they just take in the whole universe with every blink.”
However, he added that it was a lot harder to change a gorilla’s diaper: “With a baby, you’ve only got to deal with some little hands that might help, but with a gorilla, he was really right into making it very difficult,” he added. “I just laughed I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’”
Reunited with his own
Months after caring for Kaius as his own, Chad began a plan to put Kaius, now 10 months old, into the care of his own kind. Kaius has been spending more time outside, and was moved from Chad’s house to the zoo’s gorilla enclosure.
The goal was to get a 42-year-old female gorilla named G-Anne to accept Kaius as her own. The two were put in neighboring pens, with the hope that they would bond and eventually share an enclosure.
Chad said there was a risk involved — including a fear that the older gorilla might just kill the younger — but all signs indicated that the two would get along. “She’s a beautiful girl and she’s always shown signs that she wanted this as much as what we did,” Chad said.
Thankfully, G-Anne seems to be happy to accept Kaius as her own. The two were reportedly seen enjoying breakfast together: “It makes me so happy to see the two of them together now,” Chad told CNN. “It’s been a hell of a journey.”
It’s a positive development, as little Kaius should be among other gorillas and not have to rely on human care. But Chad hopes Kaius still has some love for the man who raised him as a baby. “I do hope that there’s a bond there for his life. It’d be pretty special,” he said.
What a heartwarming update to Kaius’ story! We hope he will continue to thrive with his adopted mom — and his human “mother” Chad will always be there to watch over him, too.
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