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Kiki the gorilla to undergo hernia repair surgery at Franklin Park Zoo

UPDATE
November 17

Today, Kiki, a western lowland gorilla, underwent surgery to repair a hernia that had developed along her abdominal mid-line. The surgery required a great deal of coordination and collaboration between our veterinary and animal care teams. The team was successful in repairing the hernia. Kiki’s animal care team is with her and will continue to monitor her recovery this evening. Her young son, Pablo, is doing well and is being cared for by his big sisters, Kambiri and Aziza, who have been carrying him around.

Kiki will be off-exhibit for a few weeks as her abdominal incision heals. The animal care and veterinary teams will be monitoring her very closely to minimize her activity and make sure the incision site is healing as it should. Our goal is to reunite Kiki and Pablo as soon as it is safe to do so, and once together they will remain off-exhibit while Kiki recovers. The rest of the gorilla troop will have access to their indoor habitat daily, but will be given the choice to stay near Kiki and may choose to stay together in their off-exhibit space. Over the next few weeks, it is possible that there will be days when the gorillas will not be on exhibit. 

We were also grateful to have the assistance of specialists from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and Angell Animal Medical Center during today’s procedure.

We appreciate all of your warm wishes of support for Kiki and the team. Thank you!

Kiki, a western lowland gorilla, will be put under anesthesia tomorrow at Franklin Park Zoo so the zoo’s veterinary staff can perform surgery to repair a hernia.

Due to the well-established training program at Zoo New England, animal care and veterinary teams were recently able to perform an ultrasound on Kiki to confirm that the surgery is necessary. The hernia appears to have developed along the abdominal mid-line, which was also the incision site from her emergency Cesarean section that was performed last year when her youngest Pablo, age 1, was delivered.

Whenever anesthesia is administered there is always a risk to the animal and people involved in the procedure.                                                     

“Any animal immobilization involving general anesthesia always carries some risk. These procedures require a great deal of coordination and collaboration between our animal care and veterinary teams as well as the assisting specialists, and every possible effort is being made to keep Kiki and all of the people involved in the procedure safe and healthy,” said Dr. Chris Bonar, Zoo New England Senior Veterinarian. 

In addition to the surgery, an echocardiogram will be performed as well as bloodwork and additional tests.

Following the surgery, Kiki is expected to remain off-exhibit for a few weeks as her abdominal incision heals. The animal care and veterinary teams will be monitoring her very closely to minimize her activity and make sure the incision site is healing as it should. 

During Kiki’s procedure, the Zoo New England veterinary team will be assisted by Dr. Emily McCobb, veterinary anesthesiologist and clinical associate professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. Amanda Crawford, a veterinary anesthesiology resident at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and Dr. Katie Hogan, a board-certified cardiologist with Angell Animal Medical Center.

Kiki, age 40, is the oldest member of the gorilla troop at Franklin Park Zoo. The gorilla troop will be off-exhibit during Kiki's procedure, and baby Pablo will be watched over by his older sisters, Kambiri and Aziza, until Kiki has recovered enough to be reunited with her little one.

Zoo New England is an active participant in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated in North America through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild.

Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered in the wild. Western gorillas, found in the countries of Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Angola, and Central African Republic, are divided into the Cross River and western lowland subspecies. Both are considered critically endangered. Threats to gorillas vary geographically and western gorillas are primarily threatened by disease and the bushmeat trade.

Zoo New England has been a longtime supporter of gorilla conservation, devoting passion, expertise and resources to the preservation of this iconic species. Zoo New England is currently supporting a project to protect Cross-river gorillas in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Nigeria. Here at home, Zoo New England participates in the Eco-Cell recycling program, an initiative which partners with zoos across the country to collect recycled cell phones and refurbish them for reuse. This reduces the need for coltan mining, which causes the destruction of endangered gorilla habitats.