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Local medical team helps save gorilla's life

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Their patients are usually human. But a team of local medical specialists joined Woodland Park Zoo's animal health team last month to perform emergency umbilical hernia surgery repair on 38-year-old gorilla Vip. The all-star team re-convened with our veterinary team over the weekend to examine silverback Vip’s surgical site and perform dental and sinus procedures. The good news: Vip is doing great!

“Thanks to the expertise of the medical team, Vip successfully pulled through both the surgery and follow-up examination and is back with his family as he recovers,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. “The elderly gorilla remains under close observation by his attentive caretakers and we’ll continue to keep him on a prescribed program of analgesics and joint medication.”

Prior to the surgery, keepers had reported the 430-pound western lowland gorilla had shown signs of decline including mobility challenges, a reduced appetite, weight loss and sluggishness. The zoo’s senior veterinarian called in a special team of medical specialists and a veterinary consultant to assist in diagnosing Vip and to explore a potential hernia issue. An ultrasound exam revealed an infection associated with the hernia in the umbilical region. The decision was made to perform emergency surgery that same day, which likely saved the gorilla’s life. 

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

“Vip’s condition was serious and definitely required the expert surgical intervention of the medical specialists,” said Collins. “We rely on a local network of volunteer medical specialists to help us provide top-notch health care for our 1,000-plus animals. We are very grateful to this team who donated their time and expertise to save the life of our much loved gorilla.”

During the follow-up examination of the gorilla’s surgical site, the medical team also administered a dental exam and extracted a loose tooth. In addition, Vip, who has a history of chronic sinus infection, underwent an endoscopic sinus exam as a precaution. 

Serving on the medical team for Vip’s surgery were: Greg Davis, MD, MPH, University of Washington associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Director of Rhinology and Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery; Andrew Wright, MD, Director of the UW Medicine Hernia Center at Northwest Hospital; Robert Yates, MD, surgeon, Northwest Hospital and University of Washington Medical Center; Robert M. Liddell, MD, a radiologist for Center for Diagnostic Imaging; and G.G. Comet Riggs, DVM, a veterinarian with practice limited to dentistry and oral surgery.

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Named for being a Very Important Primate, Vip is the father of five daughters, including the zoo’s youngest baby gorilla, 1-year-old Yola. Vip lives with his female companion, 32-year-old Jumoke, and his daughter, 9-year-old Uzumma. 

The median life expectancy for male western lowland gorillas is 32 years old, although gorillas in zoos can live in to their 40s and 50s because of the evolving field of zoo medicine—improved husbandry and management techniques, excellent animal care, better nutrition, increased medical knowledge, and diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. 

“Due to expanded life expectancies in many animals, including great apes, animals experience the aches and pains of getting older, just like aging humans. Vip has mobility issues, which is natural for his advanced age,” said Collins. As part of his workup, Vip also received complementary medicine in the form of laser therapy for his arthritis.

Woodland Park Zoo supports conservation efforts for the critically endangered western lowland gorilla through the Mbeli Bai Gorilla Study. To help support this important project, drop off used handheld electronics (cell phones, MP3 players, handheld games, e-readers, digital still and video cameras, laptops, GPS, portable hard drives, etc.) at the zoo. The handheld electronics will be turned over to ECO-CELL, which operates a strict NO LANDFILL program and reimburses organizations. ECO-CELL reuses mineral ore from these devices to reduce the demand for unsustainable coltan mining in the Congo that destroys habitat for critically endangered gorillas. The zoo will direct funds from ECO-CELL toward the Mbeli Bai Gorilla Study and other African conservation projects. 


Unknown said…
I love you vick im just happy that you are ok