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On Tuesday, August 2, 2016, a team from the Toronto Zoo’s Wildlife Health Centre and medical staff from The Scarborough Hospital’s Division of General Surgery performed surgery on the Zoo’s 44-year-old female Western lowland gorilla named Josephine. The surgery was conducted in the Western Lowland Gorilla Habitat at the Toronto Zoo.

A large mass in Josephine’s left leg area had been noted and appeared to be affecting her ability to walk normally. Veterinarians at the Toronto Zoo approached The Scarborough Hospital’s Division of General Surgery to further discuss management options. After consulting with Dr. Saul Mandelbaum, a general surgeon with The Scarborough Hospital, it was agreed that Josephine would need to be anaesthetised so the mass could be examined and removed as masses in this location can often be inguinal hernias. The mass turned out to be a lipoma, a slow-growing, fatty lump found underneath the skin. Josephine’s ability to walk normally was also related to arthritis, which was investigated while she was under anaesthetic.


“We wanted the best care for Josephine, who is an older gorilla, which is why we approached Dr. Mandelbaum, who performs inguinal hernia surgeries on a regular basis, often in elderly patients,” said Dr. Chris Dutton, Head of Veterinary Services at the Toronto Zoo. “This is a great example of the community coming together to ensure the animals at the Toronto Zoo receive the best possible medical care. We are grateful to The Scarborough Hospital and the hospital staff who provided their expertise on a voluntary basis for Josephine.”


“It was a privilege to work with the Toronto Zoo and their veterinarians on Josephine’s surgery,” said Dr. Mandelbaum. “Our team from The Scarborough Hospital, including nurses Sandra Ricketts-Fusca and Kerry Bennett, general surgeon Dr. Neil Orzech and anaesthetist Dr. Chris Hawling were instrumental in our success. The team from the Zoo and the hospital worked seamlessly together. The surgery went very well and Josephine is recovering nicely. We wish her the best in her recovery and hope she continues to live a healthy life.”

The Toronto Zoo’s Wildlife Health Centre and Wildlife Care team continue to monitor Josephine on a regular basis and she will be off display for a number of days while she recovers.

Josephine arrived at the Toronto Zoo from Gabon, West Africa, on May 9, 1974 before the Zoo opened in August. Josephine has been an important member of the Zoo’s Western lowland gorilla troop. She has given birth to five offspring while at the Toronto Zoo, four of which were sired by Charles, and is now grandmother to five grandchildren at zoos throughout North America. The Toronto Zoo is an active member of the North American Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP). The plan focuses on maintaining a genetically and demographically healthy zoo gorilla population as well as conservation efforts to protect them in the wild.


Great apes are keystone species in forests that regulate the global climate. A failure to save them from extinction would truly be an irreversible loss. Current conservation efforts need to be widened, as trends suggest that all great ape species could become extinct in the wild in the 21st century, and some even within a few decades.


                                       CLICK HERE to learn more about Western lowland gorillas.

Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo


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AboutThe Toronto Zoo:


The Toronto Zoo is Canada’s premier zoo and a national leader in saving wildlife to ensure the rich diversity of nature for future generations.  More than a tourist attraction, the Toronto Zoo boasts a number of leading programs for helping wildlife and their natural habitats – from species reintroduction to reproductive research. A world-class educational centre for people of all ages, the Toronto Zoo is open every day except December 25 and attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year.


Toronto Zoo is accredited by CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) and AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums). Look for these logos whenever you visit a Canadian zoo as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. For more information, visit and

About The Scarborough Hospital:

Situated in one of the most diverse communities in Canada, The Scarborough Hospital’s (TSH) skilled team of health care professionals works in partnership with patients and families to ensure high-quality, compassionate care that is truly patient-focused. Nationally recognized and award-winning for our demonstrated leadership in creating and promoting diversity, inclusion, and a healthy workplace,  TSH delivers a broad spectrum of services from two hospital campuses (Birchmount and General), and five satellite sites.  We are home to a number of regional programs serving the central east Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and beyond, including nephrology, vascular surgery, and vision care. The hospital is recognized as a centre of excellence in paediatrics, orthopaedic surgery, cancer care, and mental health.  TSH’s team also helps bring life to our community through its integrated, advanced (Level IIC) maternal and neonatal care. TSH has a long-standing affiliation with the University of Toronto (U of T), and is a partner with U of T on the new, first-in-Canada Centre for Integrative Medicine. For more information, visit visit

Media contacts:

Katie Gray, Supervisor of Public Relations and Events, Toronto Zoo

Amanda Chambers, Public Relations and Events Associate, Toronto Zoo

Holly-Ann Campbell
Director, Communications and Engagement
The Scarborough Hospital
#416-438-2911 ext. 8308

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