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Not an ‘every day’ procedure: Famous gorilla from Louisville Zoo undergoes appendectomy

Lexington Herald-Leader logo Lexington Herald-Leader 10/4/2022 Christopher Leach, Lexington Herald-Leader

A world-famous gorilla from the Louisville Zoo recently underwent surgery after a growth was discovered, according to Baptist Health.

Jelani, a silverback gorilla, showed symptoms lethargy, decreased eating habits and an apparent weakness, according to his keeper care team at the Louisville Zoo. Heart and dental diseases were ruled out but health officials did find that Jelani had an abdominal mass, according to Baptist Health.

Richard Pokorny, a general surgeon at Baptist Health Louisville, was asked to perform surgery on Jelani to remove the growth. Baptist Health said the surgical team was able to remove the mass but it was found attached to the appendix, so an appendectomy was performed in addition to the mass removal.

“It isn’t every day you get a call to consult on gorilla care,” Pokorny said. “I was honored to be asked to partner with the staff at the Louisville Zoo on Jelani’s surgery and treatment plan. I’m very appreciative for the leadership at Baptist Health Louisville for their support on this unique case.”

According to Baptist Health, primate and human anatomy are very similar. Gorillas are able to live without an appendix without any need for a change in diet, activity level or lifestyle, similar to humans, according to Baptist Health.

“We were relieved that ultimately it was an appendectomy which bodes well for long term health,” Pokorny said. “We saw Jelani earlier this week and he looked great. It was nice to see him moving around so well. Gorillas are tough.”

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