Sacramento Zoo Chimpanzee Undergoes Kidney Surgery at UC Davis

A chimpanzee lies in the CT scanner.

Sacramento Zoo Chimpanzee Undergoes Kidney Surgery at UC Davis

There is never a dull moment at the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital, but some days are more exciting than others! Such was the case two weeks ago when Maria, a 22-year-old chimpanzee from the Sacramento Zoo, visited the hospital for an abdominal CT scan. The scan confirmed a large mass on her right kidney, so the veterinary team prepped her for immediate surgery. They removed her kidney with an attached grapefruit-sized mass that was later determined to be an oncocytoma, a benign growth that rarely causes symptoms. In fact, Maria had shown no indication of being in discomfort; the mass was initially discovered during a preventive health exam.   

veterinary surgical team
A veterinary surgical team removed Maria's right kidney.

Maria continues to recover well and was happily re-introduced to her mother on day 3 post-surgery. They spent that entire night nestled up together in a little chimp cuddle puddle. She remained off-exhibit for activity restriction while healing, but rejoined her troop this week, where she enjoys being the center of attention. Her caregivers love her feisty personality, and affectionately refer to her as the “baby” of the troop, even into her 20s!  

veterinarians review CT images
Dr. Katie Phillips (far right) reviews the CT scan images.

Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema, an assistant professor of clinical zoological medicine and the zoo’s head veterinarian, said Maria’s case is a perfect example of the collaborative relationship between the zoo and the veterinary school. Maria’s team of caregivers worked closely with UC Davis specialists in oncology, internal medicine, anesthesia, radiology, surgery, and of course zoological medicine. 

“It’s truly a team effort to develop a diagnostic and treatment plan for one of the Sacramento Zoo’s animals, like Maria,” Gjeltema said. “These can be challenging cases due to the unique characteristics of zoological species, but we’re all focused on the common goal of providing the best veterinary care and quality of life to all the creatures we serve.” 

Maria the chimp in her enclosure
Maria is back in her enclosure with the rest of the troop and continues to recover well. Photo courtesy Sacramento Zoo.

Matt McKim, director of Animal Care at the zoo, said Maria has proven to be very resilient. “We are extremely happy with her progress and remain very optimistic and hopeful for not only a recovery from the procedure, but a full resolution of the case and new opportunities for wellbeing into the future.” 

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