Photos: Medical team pitches in to save Woodland Park gorilla

Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

SEATTLE—A team of human medical specialists helped Woodland Park Zoo last month to save a zoo resident: Vip, a 38-year-old gorilla.

The team performed an emergency umbilical hernia surgery. The teams got back together over the weekend to check out the gorilla’s surgical site and perform dental and sinus procedures, the zoo said/

“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 Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health. in a news release “The silverback (adult male 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.”

Before surgery, the 430-pound, western lowland gorilla was declining. It was hard for him to get around. He had a reduced appetite, weight loss and sluggishness.

An ultrasound showed an infection associated with the hernia. It was decided to perform surgery that day.

“Vip’s condition was serious, and we definitely required the expert surgical intervention of the medical specialists,” said Collins in a news release. “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 help save the life of our much loved gorilla.”

During the follow-up exam, the medical team gave Vip a dental check and pulled a loose tooth. Vip, who has a history of chronic sinus infection, also underwent an endoscopic sinus exam as a precaution.

Serving on the human 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.

Vip's name comes from "Very Important Primate." He is the father of five daughters, including the zoo’s youngest baby gorilla, 1-year-old Yola, and is known as the first zoo gorilla born in the Netherlands. Vip lives with his female companion, 32-year-old Jumoke, and his daughter, 9-year-old Uzumma.

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