Surgical Treatment of a Rectal Prolapse in a Free-Ranging Mountain Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla beringei, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 1999

Gladys Kalema, BVetMed, MRCVS

Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kampala, Uganda


A female juvenile mountain gorilla, Kahara, of Mubare tourist group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, developed a third degree rectal prolapse. The rectum did not return to the body and the tissue became increasingly necrotic and affected by fly strike over the course of 1 wk. Previous rectal prolapses seen before in gorillas of this group had resolved spontaneously. Kahara became very weak and lethargic. A decision was made to carry out surgery as the only option to save the gorilla’s life.

On clinical examination most of the rectum was found to be both necrotic and with myiasis. The affected 10-cm portion of rectum was removed by amputation of both serosal and mucosal layers which had fly strike, then the viable portion was sutured back to the body wall using simple interrupted cat gut absorbable suture material. Antibiotics and anthelmintics were administered systemically. The gorilla gained full recovery after 3 wk. Histopathology of the resected rectal tissue confirmed that there was intense inflammation and necrosis with myiasis. Possible aetiologies for the rectal prolapse are constipation, enteritis, dietary, weak connective tissue in the rectum or a combination of these.

This was the first rectal prolapse operation to be carried out on a free ranging mountain gorilla and raises the question of interfering with genetics and natural selection if this condition was found to be due to a genetic predisposition. Saving the gorilla’s life could have both a positive and negative effect on the conservation of this highly endangered species.


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Gladys Kalema, BVetMed, MRCVS
Uganda Wildlife Authority
Kampala, Uganda, USA

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