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Makokou, a Johannesburg zoo gorilla recovering after surgery

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On Saturday, 20 June 2020, Makokou, the 34-year-old gorilla from the Johannesburg zoo underwent a three-hour endoscopic nasal and sinus surgery. Priontex was honored to donate the drapes, gowns and a custom operating pack used in this successful procedure.

There was no time for monkey business last weekend, when a gorilla was admitted  to undergo nose and sinus surgery.

On Saturday, 20 June, Makokou, the 34-year-old gorilla from the Johannesburg zoo underwent a three-hour endoscopic nasal and sinus surgery. The operation took place in Johannesburg at the zoo. Priontex was honored to donate the drapes, gowns and a custom operating pack used in this successful procedure.

“This is the second time in history such a procedure has been done on a gorilla. The purpose of the operation was to remove inflammatory polyps that completely blocked his nasal passages,” said Onderstepoort faculty of veterinary science spokesperson Chris van Blerk.

The only other case of such surgery was on a male gorilla of a similar age at the Woodland park zoo in Seattle, US, in 2014.

The cause of the nasal polyps remains unknown.

Makokou onder narkose tydens sy operasie verlede naweek by die Johannesburgse Dieretuin. Foto: Fakulteit Veeartsenykunde, Onderstepoort Facebook blad.

A team of veterinary specialists from the University of Pretoria’s veterinary science faculty, medical specialists from Zuid-Afrikaanse hospital and the Johannesburg zoo staff teamed up to perform the procedure.

“The team used the latest medical technology to navigate their way through the nostrils and sinuses of the 210kg ‘patient’. The navigation system used the images obtained two weeks, earlier when Makoko was flown to the Onderstepoort faculty for a CT scan.”

Shortly after 09:00, Makokou was anaesthetised for the operation.

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Video supplied by the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria.

“After he was asleep, he was transported to the zoo a few hundred metres away, where the operating theatre was prepared with modern monitoring and surgical equipment. The anaesthetists provided Makokou with the necessary intravenous analgesics and the surgical team then carefully removed large inflammatory polyps that obstructed the nostrils of the gorilla.”

The polyps that caused the chronic sinusitis were drained from the front sinus during the operation, after which the sinuses were flushed.

“Fortunately, all the biopsies evaluated during the operation showed no sign of cancerous tissue.”

Ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Kobus Venter of the Zuid Afrikaans hospital, along with two theatre nurses, Marietjie Scheepers and Leonette Visagie, veterinary dentist and jaw surgeon from the Onderstepoort veterinary clinic Professor Gerhard Steenkamp assisted during the operation.

“On the day of the operation, there was a kind of excitement in the air when Marietjie and I came over and saw everyone again who we had met last time. It felt like old friends, everyone was scrambling together to get everything ready and to make plans to get everything in place for our patient to come,” Visagie said.

She said that it was a wonderful privilege to be able to help Makoko.

ZAH teater verpleegkundiges, sr. Marietjie Scheepers en EN. Leonette Visagie. Foto: verskaf

“When he came into theatre, our medical knowledge took over and all of us from different backgrounds worked together as one team. We were not nervous at all, and it felt like we were in our own theater and it was one of our patients on the table,” Visagie said.

She said when Makokou was put back in the enclosure after the operation, she had a feeling of satisfaction that he was going to be okay.

“We just want to thank everyone for being such an awesome team of people,” she said.

“Makokou is due to celebrate his 35th birthday on 9 July. He will now be able to smell and enjoy his birthday cake for the first time in years,” Van Blerk said.

The zoo announced Makokou was doing well a day after the operation.

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