For several months, Mogo Wildlife Park director Chad Staples raised Kaius at his home
A baby gorilla in Australia, who was near death shortly after birth last fall, has been nursed back to health and is living with a new adoptive primate parent — all thanks to a caring zookeeper who personally raised him.
Kaius was born at the Mogo Wildlife Park in Mogo, Australia, in October 2022 to mother Kipensi, 10, and father Kisane, 17. Per Australian media outlet ABC, Kisane took Kaius from the mother eight hours after the birth, which complicated things, as Kaius wasn’t being fed.
“We’re not really ever going to know why but I like to think that maybe dad just tried to get involved because he saw that there was something wrong with mom,” Chad Staples, the park’s director, told CNN about Kisane snatching his infant son from Kipensi.
When Kisane finally put down Kaius after 14 hours, zoo staff immediately grabbed the hungry newborn and fed him a bottle. The following day, they tried to return Kaius to his mother and grandmother, who apparently didn’t take much of an interest in wanting him back.
“They basically walked straight over to him, looked at him and then walked away,” Staples said, per CNN. “And then they proceeded to step over him to get food and were sort of interested but not interested like we really had expected.”
But there was an even greater problem ahead for Kaius: The newborn developed sepsis pneumonia, which prompted local doctors to be brought in, ABC reported. They eventually stabilized the baby gorilla.
Staples became Kaius’ surrogate mother for almost a year and raised him in his home, which is located in the zoo. As part of the caregiving process, Staples had tiny Kaius sleep on his chest. “That was what gave him the most comfort and actually got his heart rate and breathing under control,” he told CNN. ‘Just that skin to skin contact and feeling the heartbeat like he would from his mom.”
Kaius’ condition improved to the point that his nasal feeding tubes and oxygen lines were removed, per ABC. Staples’ routine for Kaius included bottle-feeding him every two hours and changing his diapers. Kaius later advanced to eating solid foods and then crawling, walking and climbing.
"He's blown us away with his will and his strength. He's just a fighter," the zoo director said at the time.
On Aug. 23, Kaius, now 10 months old, was transferred from Staples' home care to a gorilla enclosure in order to be with his new adoptive mom, G-Anne, an unrelated female gorilla — a decision that was seen as a safer alternative than to have Kaius reunite with his birth mother.
Staples, who initially feared that G-Anne could kill Kaius, told ABC that G-Anne made the first move in establishing contact with the baby. He added that both primates are now interacting well.
“What was always going to be unsure was what sort of role [G-anne] would want to play for Kaius,” he said. “To get him to this point, it certainly makes me smile.”
Meanwhile, Kaius will reportedly be fed by zoo staff members as he continues to get reacquainted with his gorilla family prior to him being seen by visitors.
PEOPLE reached out to Mogo Wildlife Park for additional comment.
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