Human, Gorilla Pregnancy Problems Not That Different
By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When couples experience infertility they often seek out a specialist to help them have a baby, but what happens when the patients aren't human but rather wild animals living at the Oklahoma City Zoo?
For several years now, the Oklahoma City Zoo has been hoping for a baby gorilla, but when time went by and nothing happened, the zoo took action.
Dr. LaTasha Craig normally spends her days working at a fertility clinic at OU Medical Center, but when a phone call came from the zoo, she said it was a challenge she couldn't resist.
Craig was asked to help Kelele, a 16-year-old gorilla living at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
"It's actually not that different. She's about my height. Luckily, a little rounder. The anatomy for surgery is very similar. The hormone levels are the same normal range," Craig said.
Kelele was brought to Oklahoma City about seven years ago to breed with a male gorilla named, Bom Bom.
"Kelele has never had any offspring so that really makes her valuable to the population. We really want to get her genetics into the pool to maintain that genetic diversity," said Jennifer Dagostino, Director Of Veterinary Services at the OKC Zoo.
Which is why the zoo called Craig to figure out why Kelele wasn't getting pregnant.
Craig operated on her, looking for the same problems she sees in her human patients.
"I put a camera in the belly button, which I had to have help finding by shaving, and then I can fill the belly with gas and take a look and tubes, uterus, ovaries, everything was normal," Craig said.
Besides surgery, Craig also performed an ultrasound, and blood work was done to check Kelele's hormones.
"We check her estrogen, progesterone, all of her ovulation hormones, all of the same blood work we would do in a human. We actually do it at the human lab as well," Dagostino said.
It was determined the hormone prolatin was extremely high, keeping Kelele from ovulating. She's now being treated with medication and her level has returned to normal.
"My hope is by the end of the summer she's pregnant with hopefully delivering by next summer," Dagostino said.
Zoo vets use the same human pregnancy tests that humans buy at the store. They collect the gorillas' urine, and then just watch the stick for a positive.