Bristol Zoo gorilla birth made possible by fertility drugs

AP Photo

(Photo courtesy of Bristol Zoo Gardens)

With a little help from clomifene (a drug that women have been using to aid in ovulation), Salome, a western lowland gorilla, carried a baby to term and gave birth on December 15th. The 30-year-old gorilla from the Bristol Zoo was mating, just not successfully conceiving. Veterinarians reported that she had a diminished ovarian reserve and after gynecological consults, Salome was given a drug to stimulate ovulation. Three months later she became pregnant.

Bristol Zoo deputy director, Dr. Bryan Carroll reported that,

“Female gorillas, like their human counterparts, find conceiving more difficult as they get older, so zoos may now be able to give some of their important breeders a helping hand. Being able to treat female gorillas with human fertility drugs is potentially a very important breakthrough.”

It will be interesting to see where this goes and what debates, if any, it sparks in zoo science over the next few years.

8 thoughts on “Bristol Zoo gorilla birth made possible by fertility drugs

  1. Congratulations on finding the solution to Salome’s problem. Does this open up possible lines of research for other drugs used on humans to be applied to veterinary problems?

    Conversely, are there drugs used on primates that might be applied to human problems? We are such close cousins.

    John Binsted.

  2. Sounds like the success of the Bristol Zoo will keep the lines of research open for other “human” drugs to be used by veterinarians. Preliminary tests aside, humans using drugs regularly before non-human animals… it’s an interesting flip on animal testing.

    I’m not well versed in veterinary medicine, but there certainly are other drugs that have benefited both humans and animals, for example, diuretics (like Lasix) and birth control (like Depo-Provera).

  3. I looked up this story because at school today I was reading the news and the story was completely different it said that human genes were used in her conception is this true? Or just another rumor that is published for a reaction?

  4. Nolie, do you have a link to the news article that reported that?

    I can’t see how human genes could be used for her conception but maybe they use a fertility drug which targeted a human fertility hormone that is not specific to other apes? I can’t say for sure until I read what they have… so if you can respond to this thread with a link to the source article. I’d like to read what they have said about this!

  5. Hello all,

    I am the vet that diagnosed and treated Salome. Interesting to read your comments. The real story here is that we diagnosed why she hadn’t had babies for such a long time then used medicine (tablets) to help her ovulate and conceive by natural mating with Jock. This is the first time this condition had been diagnosed and treated successfully in gorillas leading to a birth. Our hope is that other females who haven’t been reproducing can be investigated and treated using the methods we developed.

    Sharon Redrobe, Head of Veterinary Services, Bristol Zoo.

  6. How wonderful to see. I have no background in this field, but I so appreciate the work being done to care for these beautiful animals. It is hard to deny the closeness humans share with primates. This is another example of how tied we really are.

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