A baby gorilla which was the first to be born by caesarean section in Britain is now fully integrated into her primate family after being hand-reared by zookeepers.
Afia, a western lowland gorilla, is no longer being cared for by humans and can be seen exploring her new home and clinging onto her new surrogate mother.
The “little miracle” was the first gorilla in the UK to be born by emergency caesarean 10 months ago and fought for her life.
Afia’s mother, Kera, suffered complications following the birth and was not well enough to care for her, so zoo staff have been playing parent to the primate since.
She was hand-reared by keepers behind-the-scenes in Bristol Zoo’s award-winning Gorilla House, where she could be in close proximity to the rest of the gorilla troop.
Staff have spent the last ten months feeding her round the clock, taking it in turns to bring her home with them and teaching Afia natural gorilla instincts.
In that time, zoo keepers have given Afia more than 1,570 bottle feeds, changed nearly 1,400 nappies and given 112 piggy back rides.
The process of introducing Afia to her primate family has been a long and delicate one for the Zoo’s team of experienced gorilla keepers.
Introductions began in October when Afia spent time in direct contact with surrogate mother, Romina.
Zoo keepers held their breath as adorable Afia approached Romina for the first time, hoping that the older gorilla will take on the infant’s much-needed maternal role.
And now, having reached a huge milestone, Afia is no longer being cared for by keepers but is spending 24-hours a day with her new gorilla family.
Lynsey Bugg, Curator of Mammals, explains: “Since her birth in February, our team has worked tirelessly to hand-rear Afia 24/7 while being mindful to ensure human imprinting was kept to a minimum.
“Our ultimate goal has always been to reunite Afia with her gorilla family, so we all feel immensely proud and relieved to now see her where she belongs.
“After such an eventful year, it’s wonderful to watch Afia with her new family. We know each of the gorillas so well and are really proud of them all.
“This has not only been a huge career highlight for me, but also for my whole team. We have all learnt a lot and celebrated together. 2016 will be a year we will never forget.”
But she still can’t be cared for by her biological mother, Kera who is still battling illness after being treated for severe anaemia following the C-section.