SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The oldest breeding male gorilla in the U.S. is recovering at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park after undergoing a comprehensive examination to find out what's causing his recent lethargy and loss of appetite, zoo officials said Thursday.
Veterinary experts placed Winston, 45, under general anesthesia so they could perform a cardiac evaluation, including an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram, since heart disease is not uncommon in older members of the species. They also gave him a complete dental evaluation, x-rays with multiple radiographic images and laboratory tests.
The veterinarians will now review their findings.
"Our medical care for these animals has really advanced over the last 10 to 20 years," said Lauren Howard, associate director of veterinary services at the park. "So, a lot of our animals are living longer than they used to -- and with that comes age-related changes. And Winston's no different."
Animal care staff noticed a decline in Winston's condition earlier this year. Initial exams led to the decision to conduct a more thorough health evaluation.
Winston, one the world's oldest breeding male gorillas in a managed care setting, arrived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 1984 with five other gorillas. Animal care staff describe him as a strong silverback with a very easygoing personality -- only getting involved in resolving disputes between members of his gorilla troop if he absolutely must.
He can usually be spotted lounging in the rear of the exhibit or perched at either end of the habitat watching the other gorillas, especially the young males, to make sure they behave.
The park's troop, besides Winston, includes two young males, four adult females, one young female and the newest addition, a female baby born last year.
Gorillas are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats to the species include people hunting gorillas for bushmeat, loss of habitat due to logging and mining, and disease, such as Ebola. Almost half of the entire eastern gorilla species population is believed to have been wiped out over the past 15 years.