photo - head shot of jelani looking at camera, with black hair, black deep set eyes, mouth closed, contemplating look on face

Jelani Health Update



If you’ve visited Gorilla Forest at the Louisville Zoo, you might already be familiar with Jelani, our 25-year-old western lowland gorilla.  Jelani is known worldwide for his interactions with guests and their smartphones. He’s even been featured on Good Morning America, People, Time, Newsweek and USA Today.

The Louisville Zoo cares for 1,000 awesome animal ambassadors just like Jelani and we are dedicated to maintaining their wellness and wellbeing.

Comprehensive healthcare is one of the most important services we deliver for your Zoo’s residents.

Recently, our keepers noticed Jelani was exhibiting signs of lethargy, decreased eating habits, and weakness when climbing.  Several tests were performed, including a CT scan.

Since primate and human anatomy contain many similarities, our Animal Health Care team, lead by veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi, consulted with top human practitioners at Louisville’s Baptist Health. Together with Dr. Richard Pokorny, a general surgeon with Baptist Health, they determined that Jelani had an abdominal mass as well as indication of a perforated intestine and localized infection, which has been previously reported in zoo-housed gorillas and occurs in people as well.

The decision was made for Dr. Pokorny to perform abdominal surgery on Jelani.

Jelani is currently resting behind-the-scenes in preparation for the surgery. We are hopeful he will soon re-join the eight other gorillas living Gorilla Forest. The Zoo’s troop includes 64-year-old Helen, the world’s second, most-senior gorilla.

We are so grateful for all our exceptional human health specialists who so generously offer their assistance to aid the animals. We will continue to share Jelani’s journey following what we hope is a successful and speedy recovery.

Update: 9/23/22 —

We are happy to report that Jelani came through surgery and is in recovery. The abdominal mass was removed and was associated with a perforated appendix. So, his surgery became an appendectomy! Jelani is resting behind the scenes. His keepers say he’s been watching his bestie, Bengati, through the mesh. He still has lots of healing to do, so we hope you’ll wish him well! We’ll continue to provide updates as we have them on social media and on this page. Thanks again to the team of professionals that assisted in Jelani’s procedure.

Read our press release about Jelani’s procedure and health.

Update: 9/29/22 —

We have another update for you on gorilla Jelani! We are happy to report that, so far, Jelani is recovering well from his appendectomy! He is eating, moving around and visiting his gorilla friends through the mesh behind the scenes in Gorilla Forest. Further details in the video below. 
Please continue to send your well wishes as Jelani heals. Thanks again to the team of amazing professionals at Baptist Health Louisville including Dr. Richard Pokorny who performed the surgery. We’ll continue to provide updates on social media and on this webpage.

Update 10/18/2022–

Good news, Jelani fans! Our male gorilla continues to progress well after his surgery and has rejoined his best friend Bengati. He will be rotating randomly throughout the Gorilla Forest habitats. See if you can spot him!


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