A gorilla born by emergency cesarean section nearly two weeks ago at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park was reunited with her mother Monday after recovering from a bout of pneumonia.

Zookeepers said that since the physical introduction occurred, 18-year- old Imani has been extremely attached to her offspring, holding and constantly carrying her.

A gorilla baby born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park March 14 by C-section was held by her mother, Imani, for the first time March 24. The newborn suffered a bout of pneumonia and was being cared for by zoo staff. Photo by San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Animal care staff placed the 12-day-old gorilla on a soft hay pile and let her mother come in to physically meet her daughter for the first time. Imani examined the young gorilla by smelling her and then picked her up, carrying and cradling her around the bedroom area — even letting the baby cling and hold onto her back as she walked around.

“Initially she was just carrying the baby, she never set the baby down,” said Andrew Stallard, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park. “About three hours in, she began nursing the baby. After about a five-minute bout, the baby fell asleep, which is exactly what we were looking for, so we were really excited!”

Other members of the gorilla troop were allowed visual contact with Imani and the baby through a protective mesh barrier while the introductions occurred.

Imani spent time alone bonding with her baby before letting 5-year-old male gorilla Frank come into the off-exhibit bedroom area to be with Imani and the baby, as well. Zoo officials said Imani and Frank share a special bond, since she served as a surrogate mother to him after he was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2008.

Both Imani and Frank came to the Safari Park from the zoo a little over one year ago.

Zoo officials said they will continue to monitor the infant to make sure she is getting the nutrition she needs. This is the first baby for Imani and the 17th gorilla to be born at the Safari Park.

The Safari Park is home to eight gorillas, including the new baby.

 –City News Service

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