“Barney,” a 25 year old silverback Lowland Gorilla, underwent a series of exams yesterday as part of a preventative medicine program at Zoo Miami. In addition to the normal procedures which include blood collection, x-rays, and a general physical, the 414 pound great ape was also examined by several specialists to address specific issues that had been observed over the last several weeks. In addition to some skin rashes, Barney had a lingering cough that he couldn’t seem to shake. Zoo Miami Associate Veterinarian, Jimmy Johnson was the lead veterinarian throughout the procedure.
For the rash issues, veterinary dermatologist Dr. Millie Rosales performed a series of skin tests to determine if Barney had any specific allergies. The initial results indicate that he may have a sensitivity to mango, plantains, and dust mites.
For the lingering cough, a human pulmonologist, Dr. Gregory Holt from the University of Miami, performed a bronchoscopy to see if anything unusual could be identified within Barney’s bronchi and lungs. What was found was a surprise to the entire team! As the endoscope ventured deep into the bronchi, all of a sudden, small alien-looking invertebrates could be seen crawling around! They were mites!!! The good news is we had our answer as to what was probably causing the cough! The mites will be treated with special medication and the issue should be resolved relatively quickly.
Also in attendance was veterinary cardiologist, Dr. Dewey Carpenter, who performed an ultrasound examination of Barney’s heart. To assist him was Bobbie Boyd, a pediatric nurse who works with the Great Ape Heart Project and flew in from Atlanta to assist Dr. Carpenter. Adult male gorillas have been known to suffer from hypertension and heart disease so this exam was to see if Barney needed to be treated for either of those. Though his blood pressure was normal, the cardiologist did find he had a slightly enlarged heart but felt that it was within normal limits for a gorilla of his age.
Dr. Sathya Chinnadrai, the Senior Veterinarian from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, also flew in for this event and managed the anesthesia for the nearly three hour procedure.
After passing his general physical, Barney returned to his habitat and has since made a full recovery!