An aging gorilla that lives at Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo underwent surgery on Thursday to remove cancerous tumors, in an attempt to save the animal's life.
Muke (pronounced moo-key), a 43-year-old gorilla at the zoo had the operation to remove cancerous polyps in its reproductive tract. Zoo officials had two human surgeons from Salt Lake area hospitals perform the operation.
The surgeons successfully performed the surgery early Thursday afternoon and removed all of the cancerous tumors they could find. However, caretakers remain concerned as to whether the cancer might still spread throughout the animal's body.
"They removed her uterus and her ovaries... they basically did a hysterectomy," said zoo spokesperson Holly Braithwaite.
Doctors administered antibiotics and pain medications for the gorilla after the operation and closed the ape exhibit for the day to allow her to recover as much as possible. (Video: Doctor explains Mooki's condition)
Prior to Thursday's surgery, zoo officials said negative results could force them to euthanize Muke. However, the African-born gorilla made it through and may now receive chemotherapy treatment.
Muke was born in Africa in 1965 and moved to Hogle Zoo from the St. Louis Zoo in 1996. She has been paired with a male silverback, Tino, for most of her time in Utah. Zoo officials say the two never mated, but have bonded.
Gorillas that develop a close relationship often exhibit signs of concern when their mate becomes sick or disappears. Braithwaite said Tino has clearly been worried about Muke, pacing in his habitat and looking through the glass where he last saw her.
Zoo officials say that human surgeons were selected to perform the surgery on Thursday because the reproductive tract in apes resembles that found in humans.
It was not immediately known Thursday whether Muke would receive chemotherapy treatment. Officials say that decision depends on how the gorilla responds to the surgery.
At 43-years-old, Muke is older than the average gorilla. If translated to human years, the animal is approximately 70-80 years old.