6-year-old gorilla, Kimani, in ‘serious to critical condition’ after cancer diagnosis, says Calgary Zoo

Kimani, a six-year-old western lowland gorilla at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, is suffering from a very serious form of pediatric liver cancer, the zoo said in a letter to donors Monday.

The cancer is affecting the gorilla’s entire liver and has spread to her lungs and the support tissue for her heart, esophagus and blood vessels.

The zoo says it is working closely with both human and veterinary liver and cancer specialists to determine possible treatments. 

“Kimani remains in serious to critical condition, and our focus right now is to allow her to stabilize,” the letter reads.

“Although we are searching for all possible advice and options, the cancer is so far advanced that palliative care may be our only option.”

The African Rainforest care team at the zoo noticed Kimani had been acting strange with slow activity levels and a decreased appetite, the letter says.

She was anesthetized before a physician examination was performed with blood work, urine tests, radiographs and ultrasounds.

Kimani was then transported to another facility for an emergency CT scan of her abdomen and chest.

Kimani, 6, is currently being separated from the other gorillas to allow her to receive rest and special care, the zoo said. (CBC)

The zoo continues to consult with Gorilla SSP — a group that cares for, researches and educates the public on gorillas — which said it has not seen liver cancer in such a young gorilla. 

The team at the zoo is keeping Kimani comfortable with her favourite food and drinks, including fruits and vegetables, dilute fruit teas and protein smoothies, according to the letter.

Kimani is on medication to help with nausea and other complications associated with the diagnosis. She is being kept in her own space to get rest and receive care, but she has access to see and hear her gorilla family.

The young gorilla is not viewable by the public at this time.

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