Knoxville Zoo Gorilla Recovering From Surgery for Fractured Femur

Wanto, a 37-year-old gorilla at the the Knoxville Zoo, fractured his femur.

May 15, 2014— -- A "geriatric" gorilla is recovering from surgery to fix his broken femur.

Wanto, a 37-year-old gorilla at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, has already eaten a banana and stood up on all fours, according to the zoo’s executive director Lisa New. He'd also had a Gatorade in his favorite flavor: "blue ice."

“He’s not a young whippersnapper. He’s been doing remarkably even though he’s still in pain,” said New, who is also a primatologist. “He’s made grumbling noises – they’re friendly noises - to his care-giving staff.”

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Zoo staff did not see Wanto break his thigh bone Monday, but heard a “scuffle” and suspect that he fell or got his leg caught on something in his habitat, New said. The following day, veterinarians did an X-ray to determine that the bone was broken, but the zoo’s veterinarian was stumped about how he would handle the 385-pound animal.

“They don’t have a lot of gorillas come in,” New said of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, which typically treats the zoo's animals.

Since the vet had undergone similar surgery himself, New said he reached out to his own orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Oros, for advice. That’s when Oros offered to operate on Wanto.

The three-hour surgery involved implanting a pin to hold Wanto’s broken femur in place and allow it to heal. The $12,000 pin and the $80,000 surgical table were donated by local hospitals, New said.

“So many people came together in a very short time to take care of this one animal,” New said. “It means the world to us.”