Sep 23, 2009 7:06 PM by Elaine Sheridan

Local doctors save gorilla at zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s 25-year-old silverback lowland gorilla “Rafiki” is now recovering well from a medical crisis due to the lifesaving assistance from the region’s human healthcare professionals.

In early September, “Rafiki” was presenting symptoms of a headache and reduced appetite, and was not responding to initial treatment.  The Zoo’s veterinary staff determined that a brain scan was called for. The questions arose, “Where does a 450-pound gorilla get a CT scan? And, is anyone willing to make a Zoo house call?”

Rocky Mountain Cancer Center stepped forward, offering the use of their mobile CT scan unit, the only one in Colorado. It was quickly arranged that the CT scan unit, housed in a tractor-trailer rig, would drive to the Zoo for ”Rafiki’s” scan.

The CT scans showed that “Rafiki” had a large infection of his mastoid bone, located behind his right ear; along with a severe middle and inner ear infection. It was determined that surgery was needed to clean out the infection and relieve the pressure to the brain that was giving the sick gorilla his aggravating headaches, along with his loss of appetite and weight loss.

The search then began to find a surgeon that could come up to the mountain Zoo and a local ear surgeon from Colorado Springs Ear Associates stepped up to help save the gorilla.  Good news!  “Rafiki” has steadily improved with his appetite returning and his headaches subsiding. The prognosis is for a full recovery for the male gorilla, a key member of the Zoo’s gorilla troop. The Zoo says that if it weren’t for the generosity of the local medical community, “Rafiki” would have suffered and possibly died.


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