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Vets at San Diego Zoo Safari Park care for iconic elderly gorilla, Winston

Winston, a western lowland gorilla
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 18, 2024

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) — Veterinarians at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are providing geriatric care for one of the park's most famous animals, the silverback gorilla, Winston.

“Winston, at 52, is a really old gorilla. Most male gorillas live to 35 years," said the Director of Veterinary Services Matt Kinney.

Winston first came to the Safari Park in 1984, the second-oldest gorilla in the United States, where he quickly became a favorite of visitors who came to watch him lead the park's troop of Western Lowland gorillas.

However, in recent years, Winston has faced a series of challenges common to not just gorillas but also people who have lived a long life. Arthritis, dental problems, heart disease, and a tumor on a kidney have all slowed Winston down, even after surviving a bout with COVID-19 in 2021.

Zoo veterinarians work closely on Winston's care, including implanting a heart monitor that provides real-time data that can help lead to changes in medications and supplements.

“There’s no way that we’re able to predict if it’s weeks, months, or years," Kinney said. "But what is important to us is making sure that Winston is in great health and able to navigate his complex habitat, control his social troop, and make sure that he’s thriving under our care.”

Zoo officials told ABC 10News there is no plan currently completed for replacing Winston when he finally comes to the end of his long life. Two younger male gorillas who previously lived in the habitat have been moved to another location at the Safari Park after they began to challenge Winston within the troop.