A team of doctors performed life-saving surgery on one of Woodland Park Zoo’s longest-tenured residents.

A team of human medical specialists joined Woodland Park Zoo’s animal health team last month to perform emergency umbilical hernia surgery repair on a 38-year-old male gorilla named Vip. The medical and veterinary teams re-convened over the weekend to examine the gorilla’s surgical site and perform dental and sinus procedures.

“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 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.”

Prior to the surgery, keepers had reported that 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 human 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 and the decision was made to perform emergency surgery that same day.

“Vip’s condition was serious and we definitely required the expert surgical intervention of the medical specialists,” Collins said. “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 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.

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, 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.

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 work-up, Vip also received complementary medicine in the form of laser therapy for his arthritis.


• Woodland Park Zoo raised more than $1.5 million at its annual Jungle Party, the 41st such event.

Sarah Valentine, the zoo’s vice president of development said nearly 1,000 people came to the party.

“It began with humble origins, as a potluck,” she said of the event. “It’s morphed into one of the better-known, more successful fundraisers in the city.”

The event took place at the zoo on July 14 and was catered by El Gaucho.

“The funds raised are critical for the operations of the zoo,” Valentine said.