210 kg Gorilla airlifted from zoo for CT scan after developing breathing issues

In a heartwarming example of animal care, a gorilla weighing 210 kilograms was airlifted from its enclosure in a South African zoo and flown to a hospital for a CT scan and full medical examination. Local news website Times Live reports that Makoko, a 34-year-old male western lowland gorilla from the Johannesburg Zoo, had been suffering from a chronic nasal discharge and not responding to regular medical treatment.

Since road transport would have taken too long, Makoko was flown in a helicopter to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital on Saturday. The hospital is located 64 km away from Johannesburg Zoo and was chosen because it has a CT scanner strong enough to cope with the ape’s weight, reports Sky News.

“We had to consider how to get him there as fast as possible as he is an older animal and putting him under anaesthetic would have posed a risk for him during an hour’s drive to and from the hospital,” said Dr Kresen Pillay, who has been treating the gorilla since he first developed the discharge.

“His condition means he’s got inflammation in his nose and has a growth that has formed, which could be an allergy but we first need to confirm. Over time it has grown and now he has masses which have blocked his nasal passages,” said Dr Pillay.

“Prof Gerhard Steenkamp examined Makokou’s nasal passages. He found that they were almost entirely blocked with what looked like several tumors,” the Onderstepoort Hospital wrote in a Facebook post. “There was some relief that no cancerous cells were found in the biopsied tissue.”

It took five people to lift Makoko off the stretcher after the CT scan. A video of the gorilla, shared by the hospital on Facebook.

According to Dr Pillay, Makoko is in a better condition after the CT scan. He will undergo an operation before his 35th birthday on July 9 and is currently back at his enclosure in Johannesburg Zoo.