CHICAGO (CBS) — Surgery is never pleasant, but when the patient is the oldest animal at Brookfield Zoo, it adds a whole new dimension.
The veterinary staff of the Chicago Zoological Society, along with a board-certified veterinary dentist and an orthopedic surgeon conducted Thursday two operations on Ramar, a 49-year-old western lowland gorilla – one for dental problems and one for knee arthritis.
During a regular examination on Ramar, back in March, veterinarians noticed “mild periodontal disease affecting several of his molars, prompting the need for follow-up dental care,” a CSZ release read. The zoo decided to take the opportunity to also agrees Ramar’s “age-related degenerative arthritis” affecting his knees.
Therefore on Thursday the team of board-certified veterinarians treated Ramar’s periodontal disease and at the same time, performed an arthroscopic examination and provided an injection in both knees to improve comfort.
Prior to the surgery, Ramar had been receiving Celebrex and Lyrica, the same pain relievers people are prescribed, to help keep him comfortable.
“Keeping Ramar and all of our animals comfortable and active during the golden years of their lives is of great emphasis for our team,” said Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Society. “With the high level of professional care found in zoos today, animals live longer and can develop age-related conditions their wild counterparts would not be able to survive.”
Thanks to the advancements in medicine, animals in professional care are living longer, but are also experiencing many of the same age-related problems elderly humans do.
Ramar is not just the oldest animal at Brookfield Zoo, but he is also the one of the oldest western lowland gorillas at North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. During his years as the dominant male in the zoo’s gorilla group, Ramar has fathered three offspring: a son, Nadaya in 2001 with female gorilla, Baraka; a daughter, Kamba in 2004 with female gorilla, Koola; and another son, Bakari in 2005 with female gorilla, Binti Jua.
“Ramar’s longevity attests to the excellent professional veterinary and husbandry care he has received at Brookfield Zoo,” the CSZ release reads. “He even participates in his own health care. Animal care staff have taught him a wide repertoire of behaviors, including presenting various body parts (shoulder, arm, hand, foot, open mouth, etc.) for treatment and for physical therapy.”
The veterinary staff of the Chicago Zoological Society conducts routine preventive examinations to carefully monitor the welfare of all the animals at Brookfield Zoo, particularly those that are older and affected by geriatric health conditions.