KNOXVILLE (WATE) - One of the Knoxville Zoo's endangered gorillas underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a broken leg.
Wanto, a silverback Western lowland gorilla, was injured Monday afternoon due to what zookeepers believe was contact with one of the climbing bars in the gorilla's indoor courtyard.
Caretakers immediately realized Wanto injured his leg and moved him into separate quarters from the three female gorillas he was with.
Clinic staff and veterinarians from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine arrived quickly to give pain medicine and evaluate Wanto. Radiographs and X-rays revealed Wanto had suffered a fracture to his right femur.
The surgery took about three hours Wednesday afternoon at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. Officials say an orthopedic specialist from UT Medical Center, Dr. William Oros, was required because of the nature of the injury and the similarity of gorilla anatomy to that of a human.
UT Medical Center donated the use of a traction table for the surgery.
No surgical procedure is without risk, and zoo officials say Wanto's age of 37 and special challenges associated with gorilla anesthetization increased the risks of surgery.
"Gorillas are very bulky. They have a massive chest and a big bulky head and that makes intubation a little riskier even than it is with a human," said Lisa New, Executive Director of the Knoxville Zoo.
"We could actually see the bone almost poking out through the skin. It was painful looking," said Dr. Ed Ramsay, Professor of Zoological Medicine at UT College of Veterinary Medicine.
Doctors say Wanto should be up on his feet again Thursday. The zoo is hopeful he will make a full recovery.
Wanto, a 385 pound, 5 feet 6 inches tall Western lowland gorilla came to the Knoxville Zoo in 2013 with a group of females on recommendation of the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan, which manages the breeding and social placement of Western lowland gorillas in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.