Family Skirmish Ends Poorly for Baby Gorilla

Kitoko undergoes neurosurgery after he's apparently accidentally bitten by family member
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 25, 2020 8:54 AM CDT
Zoo's Baby Gorilla Badly Hurt in Family Tussle
In this Friday, May 22, 2020 photo shows a 2 1/2-month-old male gorilla, Kitoko, with mom Uzumma. Kitoko was injured Saturday, during a skirmish among his six-member family group in Seattle. Kitoko was bitten on the head, likely by accident when another gorilla tried to bite Uzumma.   (Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo via AP)

A baby gorilla was badly injured at a Seattle zoo on Saturday when he was caught in a skirmish between his family group. Animal health experts at the Woodland Park Zoo say little Kitoko was bitten on the head, likely by accident when another gorilla tried to bite his mother, Uzumma. Kitoko sustained a fractured skull and a severe laceration, but zoo officials say the 2-month-old gorilla underwent surgery and are hopeful if he doesn't develop an infection. “We are cautiously optimistic for a full recovery and hope to return Kitoko to his mom today,” Dr. Darin Collins, the zoo’s animal health director, said on Sunday. The gorilla keepers didn't see the fight between the western lowland gorillas, but security cameras show it happened just before 8am in the animals' sleeping den. The zoo keepers noticed the baby's wound about 10 minutes later, and Kitoko appeared to be nursing and behaving normally after.

Kitoko's family group includes his mother and three other females, as well as his father, the silverback Kwame. “Gorillas tend to be gentle giants but conflicts among family members do occur, in zoos and in nature,” Woodland Park Zoo mammal curator Martin Ramirez said, per the AP. “Conflicts can involve biting and shoving among individuals. We suspect one of the adult females may have inadvertently bitten the baby while engaged in a skirmish with Uzumma.” The zoo brought in a team of pediatric neurosurgery consultants from Seattle Children's Hospital to evaluate Kitoko's injuries and surgically repair his wound. Ramirez said Kitoko will be likely returned to his mother and father, with the three temporarily kept separate from the other family members.

(Read more Western Lowland Gorilla stories.)

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