Makokou, a western lowland gorilla, lives at Johannesburg Zoo. In May 2020, a biopsy revealed he was suffering from a series of polyps in his nasal passages.

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A CT scan was the only way to safely determine the extent of the polyps’ growth, to help plan any future procedures.

Makokou being put on a stretcher © Getty Images
© Getty Images

The zookeepers chose the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital in Pretoria for the scan as it was the only facility nearby with equipment robust enough to handle Makokou’s 210kg bulk. In early June, he was transported the 65km to the hospital via helicopter.

Makokou on a stretcher © Getty Images
© Getty Images

Thanks to Makokou’s enormous size, it took five members of staff to manoeuvre him into position for the scan.

Makokou in a scanner © Getty Images
© Getty Images

Once they had placed Makokou into the scanner, the team continuously monitored his vital signs – much like doctors would for a human patient – to ensure that he was safe at all times.

Makokou safely back in his enclosure © Johannesburg Zoo
© Johannesburg Zoo

Following the successful procedure, the team at Johannesburg Zoo tweeted this picture of 34-year-old Makokou safely back in his enclosure. Two weeks later, he underwent state-of-the art surgery to remove the polyps, and is now making a speedy recovery.

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Authors

Jason Goodyer
Jason GoodyerCommissioning editor, BBC Science Focus

Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.

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