Gorilla celebrates first birthday with pureed yam cake

“Joanne" celebrated her first birthday. (San Diego Zoo)

“Joanne" celebrated her first birthday. (San Diego Zoo)

SAN DIEGO — A baby gorilla born via emergency cesarean section at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrated her first birthday Thursday with a pureed yam cake and cardboard doll house.

“Joanne,” named for first Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global Chairwoman Joanne Warren, spent 11 days in a veterinary hospital before she was reunited with her mother, 18-year-old Imani.

Zookeepers said she now is active and plays with other young gorillas in the troop.

“This is an extra-special first birthday because Joanne did have a very difficult start coming into the world,” Animal Care Manager Peggy Sexton said. “She had to be born via C-section, and had some medical problems. But those were all resolved in about 10 days and she was re-introduced to the troop and now she’s just as normal as can be.”

Joanne had her own ice cake made with orange juice, pureed yams and sweet potatoes, while a larger one was given to the rest of the troop.

Although Joanne primarily subsists on her mother’s milk, she was spotted digging the fruit and vegetables out of her cake.

Additional treats — including sunflower seeds, peanuts and fruit — were scattered throughout the exhibit to encourage the gorillas’ natural foraging behavior, zoo officials said.

A park volunteer made a cardboard doll house for Joanne and staffers decorated the habitat’s rock walls with “Happy Birthday” messages.

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