Image via Adobe Stock

A Pretoria clinic’s ENT team steps in to help a gorilla

It was a thrilling weekend for the hospital’s ENT team after they were asked to help with the gorilla’s medical examination.


Image via Adobe Stock

Makokou, a 35-year-old gorilla from the Johannesburg Zoo, suffers from a chronic nasal discharge. He was not responding to treatment for a recent illness, so he was airlifted to Onderstepoort to undergo tests.

Fortunately, the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital (ZAH) staff were on hand to help with the procedure. They described it as a “once in a lifetime” experience.

With the help of Dr. Kobus Venter, an ear, nose and throat specialist, and two theatre nurses, Marietjie Scheepers and Leonette Visagie as well as Prof. Gerhard Steenkamp, a veterinary dentist and maxillofacial surgeon from the Onderstepoort Veterinary Clinic, a CT scan was done on the gorilla.

The procedure on the gorilla

Visagie exclaimed, “His skin felt like leather and he had a massive chest, boney head and large hands. Assisting was a “wow” experience filled with adrenaline. Dr Venter and his team assisted with Makokou’s endoscopy procedure and other medical examinations.”

She describes Makokou as a huge animal with a large head and body that weighs in at 210 kilograms.

“We knew he was large but didn’t know what to expect. This is the first time working with an animal as a patient. It was so amazing to experience.”

Her coworker, also a nurse, was equally enthusiastic about the experience.

“It was an overwhelming experience and such a privilege to help. You do not actually realise how big he is until he lies on the table,” Scheepers said.

To sum up, Visagie said as soon as the outcome of the procedure is ready, the team will assist the Johannesburg Zoo in planning for the removal of the polyps in the nasal cavities at the zoo hospital in three weeks’ time.